Uber’s Self-Driving Vehicle Tests Have Been Suspended by Arizona’s Governor
The move by Ducey is notable for the governor, who is an advocate for fewer regulations in a bid to attract companies and high-paying tech jobs to the state. Ducey is a known proponent of autonomous vehicle technology and allows testing in the state per an executive order. The action has helped turn Phoenix and its multitude of suburbs into a prime destination for the sector. Waymo, the former Google (GOOGL) self-driving project that is now a business under parent company Alphabet, also tests in Phoenix. Chipmaker Intel (INTC) and Cruise Automation, the startup acquired by General Motors (GM), test in the area as well.
Ducey updated his 2015 executive order in March to allow fully autonomous cars to operate on public roads without a human behind the wheel. Vehicles must follow all existing traffic laws and rules for cars and human drivers.
But Ducey insists that encouraging innovation and fewer regulations doesn’t mean putting people at risk.
“As governor, my top priority is public safety. Improving public safety has always been an emphasis of Arizona’s approach to autonomous vehicle testing, and my expectation is that public safety is also the top priority for all who operate this technology in the state of Arizona,” Ducey wrote in a letter to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. “The incident that took place on March 18 is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation.”
Uber suspended its self-driving operations in all cities, including Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto, immediately following the fatal accident.
“We continue to help investigators in any way we can, and we’ll keep a dialogue open with the Governor’s office going forward,” an Uber spokesperson told Fortune.
The accident occurred March 18 at about 10 p.m. when an Uber self-driving vehicle struck a pedestrian on Mill Avenue, just south of Curry Road, according to the Tempe Police Department. The vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision, with a vehicle operator behind the wheel, police told Fortune.
The female pedestrian, who has been identified by police as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, was walking outside of a crosswalk when she was struck by the vehicle. She was transported to a local area hospital where she passed away from her injuries.
Investigators from the National Transportation and Safety Board were evaluating the scene in Tempe following the accident. NTSB is also reviewing the onboard self-driving system in Uber’s test vehicle.