Self driving cars have only recently made their way out of the pages of science fiction books and into our lives. Nothing will ever be perfect unfortunately, and last year the death of a pedestrian made headlines after she was hit by a self driving car in Arizona.
Elaine Herzberg was pushing her bike across a section of road away from a pedestrian crossing when she was hit. The National Transportation Safety Board over in the States has investigated the crash, and found that there was no system in place for the self driving car to detect jaywalkers, only people who were crossing where there are marked crossings.
The report has not yet decided who is at fault for the accident, but the sector will be watching closely.
The vehicle that hit her was made by Uber, but with upwards of forty companies (including Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, and Google) either working on or selling self driving cars, it’s an lesson that needs to be learned by the technology industry as a whole.
People jaywalk all the time. They just do. We’ve all done it, and we’ll all continue to do it until the end of time. It’s not something that should be punishable by death, and if it requires a bit of extra coding to make sure that an unmanned hunk of metal flying down the road can stop for people, then so be it.
In a response to the report, Uber has said that “We regret the March 2018 crash involving one of our self-driving vehicles that took Elaine Herzberg’s life… We deeply value the thoroughness of the NTSB’s investigation into the crash and look forward to reviewing their recommendations once issued after the National Transport Safety Board’s meeting later this month.”
It’s a lot of fun to dream about what technology could one day bring us, but not at the expense of people’s safety. If we have to wait a few more years for a self driving car while the bugs get worked out, then you know what? I’m ok with that.