Fatal Accident Put Autonomous Vehicle Programs Under Scrutiny

02 April 2018 Dashboard Insights Blog

High profile accidents related to autonomous vehicles are impacting the planned expansion of existing autonomous vehicle pilot programs.  In 2016, a driver in Florida died while using autopilot mode on his vehicle. Then, on March 18, 2018, a pedestrian was struck and killed in Tempe, Arizona by a Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicle, fitted with self-driving capabilities.  The vehicle was part of Uber’s autonomous vehicle pilot program, and Arizona’s governor thereafter suspended that program in Arizona.

Only a few months before the vehicle crash, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, sat down with Bloomberg News Editor-In-Chief, John Micklethwait, to detail Uber’s autonomous vehicle plans. According to Khosrowshahi, Uber began its endeavor by launching various pilot projects in major cities nationwide, including Tempe, Arizona—the location of this latest incident. The company’s plan, he explained, was to promote autonomous transportation, “and feather it in” with traditional non-autonomous transportation requiring drivers.

Under the pilot program, Khosrowshahi explained, in 95 percent of cases today, Uber will determine the circumstances are not appropriate for an autonomous vehicle. Uber may not have everything mapped perfectly, the weather may not be perfect, or there may be an accident on the road. If any of these conditions exist, Uber will not send an autonomous vehicle to service the customer. However, in the remaining five percent of cases, Khosrowshahi continued, everything will fall into place—and that is when Uber will send an autonomous vehicle for transport. The initial five percent was predicted to grow to 10, 15, and 20 percent as Uber’s computer and algorithms continue to learn how to maneuver real world conditions. At the time of the interview, Khosrowshahi anticipated Uber serving the majority of its users with entirely autonomous technology in the next 10 to 15 years—even suggesting that today’s children may never learn how to drive a car.

In light of the most recent incident, Uber has put those plans on hold. The day after the accident, Uber terminated pilot projects in Arizona, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Toronto. It remains unclear as to who was at fault for this accident. However, it is clear this accident will slow down  autonomous vehicle testing on public roads.  While that trend will no doubt continue, some may want to pump the brakes.

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.

Related Services