What the Self-Driving Uber Crash Means for the Future of Autonomous Vehicles

Self-driving car technology has burst onto the mainstream auto scene in the United States in recent years. From everyday vehicles to ride-sharing options to pizza delivery, autonomous cars have been thrust into the spotlight as the hot new thing in car tech. But with the recent Uber crash in Arizona, which resulted in the death of a pedestrian on the streets of Tempe, many in the transportation industry are wondering what the next step is for self-driving cars.

Arrested Development

Car companies like Ford, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Volvo, and Tesla have been developing self-driving car technology with tech startups over recent years. While it has been exciting, a lot of naysayers have been bolstered with news of faulty computer systems and recent crashes. Uber, which has been testing out its autonomous vehicles for ride-sharing in three American markets, has put its testing on hold indefinitely as it undergoes investigation for what exactly went wrong that night in Arizona.

This incident is the first one in the industry that has resulted in a fatality. Since then Tesla has been put under the microscope for its recent crashes due to user error. So, where will this road be taking self-driving cars? Some say the tech will continue to be sharpened, resulting in more lives saved (i.e. less drunk drivers in control), and some say that autonomous cars should be stopped or at least slowed down in production.

Setting New Standards

The accident in Arizona is not compelling anyone to set a legal precedent, even though Uber may be liable. The focus is now on artificial intelligence in vehicles and figuring out how they can be more safe with sensors and cameras. In Boston, nuTonomy, a self-driving tech startup, is currently trying to figure out how to maneuver around the city’s wintry snowbanks, which have caused major hazards for its testing vehicles.

It’s understandable that now regulators will take a closer look at the technology after its latest setbacks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have launched probes into the Uber crash. All this is happening during aggressive expansion of the technology as tech giants like Google, Lyft, and Apple have devoted research into developing self-driving technology. Will the recent crashes, injuries, and deaths pump the brakes on it?

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