Sadly, it finally happened. A self-driving vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in mid-March in Arizona. We can only speculate about what’s going to happen: Technology’s image is expected to take a big public relations hit, while state and federal lawmakers likely will take a much more seriously look at additional regulations pertaining to self-driving vehicles.

The fatal accident occurred at night when an Uber self-driving sport utility vehicle (SUV) struck a woman who was walking her bicycle across the street. The vehicle was being tested on the road and had a test driver behind the wheel.

Uber immediately ends testing

At the time, Uber – a San Francisco-based ride-sharing, food delivery and transportation network company – had been testing self-driving vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh and Toronto. After the accident, the company immediately suspended testing.

When it comes to regulating self-driving vehicles, the U.S. government has in place “voluntary guidelines” for companies that expect to test self-driving or fully autonomous vehicles. The result is that it’s up to states to create regulations.

Many states, including Colorado, have implemented preliminary – some consider soft – rules pertaining to self-driving vehicles; laws that don’t go much into detail. This is largely due to the fact that developing technology could make such laws obsolete rather quickly, and that many states – such as Arizona – hope to boost their economies by gaining jobs from the new technology.

Colorado passed first law in June

Last June, Colorado passed its first law on regulating self-driving vehicles. The state took baby steps, essentially creating a process for self-driving vehicles to be tested on the road. The law notes that companies considering testing such vehicles in Colorado may do so as long as the existing rules of the road are obeyed.

However, the fatal accident in Arizona may lead states to take a more cautious approach toward driverless vehicles and reconsider the best ways to deal with related legislation. Public safety remains a priority.

 

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