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Uber Suspending Autonomous Car Program After First Accident

Uber has suspended its self-driving car program after one of their cars was involved in a fatal accident.

The incident occurred in Tempe Arizona last Sunday night, according to ABC15. An Uber operated autonomous car was driving northbound when a woman riding a bicycle crossed the road outside of a crosswalk. The Uber car was operating in autonomous driving mode and was not able to stop in time.

49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was struck and grievously injured. The sole occupant of the car contact emergency responders who transported her to hospital, where she later died of her injuries.

The driver of the Uber, 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, told police that he was at the wheel but the car was operating in autonomous mode at the time of the accident. There we no other passengers in the car.

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"Our hearts go out to the victim’s family,” Uber said in a statement. “We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident."

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also expressed his condolences on Twitter and vowed to investigate the issue with local authorities. "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."

As a result of the accident, Uber has paused all autonomous car test operations in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto.

Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir said preliminary findings would likely absolve Uber of any wrongdoing. “It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode [autonomous or human-driven] based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” Moir said upon reviewing the Uber’s onboard footage.

Uber began operating their fleet of self-driving Volvos in February 2017 after permit issues prevented them from operating in California. At the time, state governor Doug Ducey received Uber warmly, saying: “Arizona welcomes Uber self-driving cars with open arms and wide open roads.”

The investigation is still ongoing.

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