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Uber pulls self-driving cars off roads following pedestrian’s death

An Uber self-driving car drives down 5th Street on March 28, 2017 in San Francisco, California.
An Uber self-driving car drives down 5th Street on March 28, 2017 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Uber is temporarily pulling its fleet of self-driving cars off the roads after one of their cars hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, according to police.

The accident occurred late Sunday night, and is believed to be the first such fatality from an autonomous vehicle. The self-driving car included a human operator to assist at the wheel, and is part of a program that is being tested in Tempe, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

The 49-year-old victim was struck while walking her bicycle on the street outside of a crosswalk. She later died of her injuries, according to authorities.

A spokeswoman for Uber says the company is investigating the incident and cooperating with authorities. We examine what the implications are for California, which gave the green light last month to test fully driverless cars on public roads.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles sent us a statement saying:

“The California DMV takes the safe operation of our autonomous vehicle permit holders very seriously.  The California DMV has many requirements in place for testing permit holders and requires collision reports and annual disengagement reports.  We are aware of the Uber crash in Arizona and are in the process of getting more information.”


Tim Higgins, reporter for The Wall Street Journal covering technology and autos; he covered the story

Ashley Z. Hand, co-founder of CityFi, a company that focuses on the integration of technology in the urban environment; formerly served as the transportation technology strategist for the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and developed public policy for shared mobility, automated vehicles and other technologies; she tweets @azhandkc

Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a California-based nonprofit organization that has raised concerns about the safety of driverless vehicles