Uber has been testing autonomous vehicles since 2016
Uber has shut down its autonomous vehicle testing programme in the US state of Arizona two months after one of its cars was involved in an accident that killed a pedestrian.
Following Arizona governor Doug Ducey's decision to suspend Uber's testing rights in the state, the company has now officially halted the programme. No timeframe has been set for when testing will resume; for now, Uber's focus will be on smaller programmes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and California.
Uber has come under fire as the operator of the first autonomous vehicle to have been involved in a fatal incident. In a previous letter addressed to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Ducey called a video of the incident, in which a self-driving car crashed into a 49-year-old woman, "disturbing and alarming" and that it "raises many questions about the ability to continue testing in Arizona".
"As governor, my top priority is public safety," Ducey wrote. "In the best interests of the people of my state, I have directed the Arizona Department of Transportation to suspend Uber's ability to test and operate autonomous vehicles on Arizona's public roadways."
Police in the city of Tempe said that the car involved, a modified Volvo XC90, was driving itself with an operator behind the wheel when it struck a woman crossing the road with a bicycle. The woman later died from her injuries in hospital.
"A female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle," Tempe police said in a statement.
Uber said after the incident that it was "fully co-operating" with the police investigation and has expressed condolences to the victim's family. Tempe police continue to investigate the incident, along with the National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Khosrowshahi said via his Twitter account: "We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened.”
Uber began self-driving testing in Tempe in February 2017, when it switched operations from California following a dispute with officials in that state. A few months after testing began, an Uber car was involved in an accident with another vehicle, which failed to stop at a junction. Nobody was hurt in that incident.
Tempe mayor Mark Mitchell said: "The city of Tempe has been supportive of autonomous vehicle testing because of the innovation and promise the technology may offer in many areas, including transportation options for disabled residents and seniors. Testing must occur safely. All indications we have had in the past show that traffic laws are being obeyed by the companies testing here."
Although there have been crashes involving self-driving vehicles, including a well-documented one involving a Google autonomous car in 2016, Uber's 2018 incident is thought to be the first to have resulted in a fatality.