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Uber self-driving mule involved in pedestrian death

Danger: Uber’s self-driving Volvo XC90 program has been involved in another accident, this time resulting in the death of a pedestrian.

Arizona woman dies after collision with Uber’s autonomous Volvo XC90 test car

20 Mar 2018

UBER’S driverless car trial has hit its largest roadblock yet, after one of its autonomous Volvo XC90 test vehicles struck and killed a woman in the US, in what appears to be the first recorded incident of a self-driving car pedestrian death.

The fatal crash occurred in the city of Tempe, Arizona, the same city where an autonomous Uber XC90 crashed in March last year, forcing the ride-sharing company to suspend its test program.

At the time of the crash, the vehicle was driving autonomously with an operator present behind the wheel, according to local police.

The victim was identified as 49-year-old Elaine Herzburg, who passed away at a hospital following the crash.

According to Tempe police, Ms Hezburg was “walking outside of the crosswalk, crossed the road from west to east, when she was struck by the Uber vehicle”.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took to Twitter, saying: “Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened.”

The ride-sharing company further clarified that it is “fully cooperating with Tempe Police and local authorities as they investigate this incident”.

Photos emerged on Twitter from local news stations showing a bicycle on the side of the road, and the Uber XC90 with a crumpled front grille.

The latest incident comes almost a year to the day that Uber suspended its autonomous testing program after a self-driving XC90 flipped itself onto its side in Tempe.

According to reports at the time, the Uber car was not at fault in the crash, as a second car failed to yield when the XC90 had right of way.

As with the recent crash, there was an occupant present in the driver’s seat.

No one was harmed.

When the incident occurred last year, Uber suspended its self-driving trial for a period. It is not yet known if the same action will be undertaken with the latest incident.

In 2016, Uber was forced to pull its autonomous test cars from its San Francisco trials, after test mules were found to be running red lights.

Volvo and Uber’s partnership began in August 2016 with the Drive Me autonomous project, with the testing making up one third of the Swedish manufacturer’s self-driving plans.

The other two elements consist of a large-scale autonomous test of up to 100 vehicles on the roads of Volvo’s native Gothenburg, and a joint venture with tech company Autoliv that aims to co-develop and manufacture autonomous technology and driver assistance systems to sell to third-party brands.

A total of $US300 million ($A389.2m) has been committed by Volvo and Uber to the project.

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