The tragic accident in Tempe, Arizona, last Sunday evening that killed Elaine Herzberg as she was her bike across the road should have never happened. But the same could be said of the 197 pedestrians struck by cars and killed in Arizona in 2016, and the more than 40,000 people who died in car accidents in the US during the same time period.
Herzberg's death caused a stir because it Volvos Uber was testing in the Phoenix area. Because self-driving tech is new and not completely trusted, this one roadway has died out of the thousands every year has been intensively covered by media, scrutinized by traffic safety experts, Volvo Auto Brake ” border=”0″ class=”none” src=”https://assets.pcmag.com/media/images/579457-volvo-auto-brake.jpg?thumb=y&width=980&height=479″/>
A video of the accident from inside and outside the vehicle released on Wednesday. nor the human safety driver behind the wheel saw Herzberg. The car did not slow down or swerve to avoid. Even though the Volvo XC90 comes equipped with a range of sensors and driver assist systems, including pedestrian and cyclist detection with auto brake (above) -and the Uber vehicle was outfitted with more sophisticated sensors such as lidar, the vehicle is inexplicably never detected. Herzberg as she crossed a darkened road.
Her death demonstrates that self-driving tech in its current form is not ready for public roads.
Autonomous Tech Testers Flock to Phoenix
Companies like Uber, Lyft, and Waymo have flocked to Phoenix because of Arizona's lax laws on a self-contained vehicle testing. That prompted California to relax its regulations last month, although the state requires self-driving vehicles.
States like Florida, which has favorable weather, and Michigan, home to the US car industry, have also adopted a laissez faire on the autonomous vehicle testing in hopes of attracting or retaining the automaker and tech company dollars.
Meanwhile, self-driving car advocates have been waiting on Washington to give guidance on autonomous regulation. The Obama administration and former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx laid the groundwork in January 2016 with a series of voluntary safety guidelines and by offering $ 4 billion in federal funding to foster the testing and development of self-driving technology.
After power changed hands in DC a year later, the federal government, and the Congress, delayed picking up the baton for several months due to partisan bickering and lobbying by special interests. Now, self-driving car policy has effectively stalled on Capitol Hill.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has said that the USDOT will not stifle innovation but she has not show leadership on self-driving cars. More than a year into the Trump administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the division of the US DOT that supervises the motor vehicle regulation and was under the Obama guidelines to oversee autonomous vehicle policy, still does not have the administrator . Overseas, China and Germany have made the development of the technology a political priority.
There are few doubts that self-driving cars will ultimately take the form of self-driving technology and the semi-autonomous driver assistance systems, since they are likely to be viewed with even more suspicion. save lives and will need to be tested safely on public roads, but with sufficient federal regulation and oversight of the technology. Until then, more people will continue to die on US roads every day. And that too is a tragedy.