A woman has died in Arizona after being hit by an Uber self-driving car, it is reported to be the first time a pedestrian has died as a result of a self-driving car accident.
According to University of Auckland senior lecturer Paul Ralph, It's critical to keep these things in perspective.
People are using this incident to dismiss driverless cars as unsafe.
Ralph says, “Human drivers have killed hundreds of thousands of people, a driverless car has killed one.
“Moving to autonomous vehicles as quickly as possible is still the best way to reduce automotive collisions and their enormous cost in money, time and human life.”
“Now that said, we're talking about Uber, a company with a terrible reputation for unethical behaviour and technological corner-cutting, if Uber knew that their autonomous vehicles were running red lights and did not take reasonable steps to correct the mistake, the company should be held criminally responsible for this woman's death.”
He believes that the individuals who ignored the problem should be held personally, criminally responsible, they might be charged with vehicular manslaughter or negligent homicide.
The problem is that this research should be funded by governments and carried out by expert researchers in public-private partnerships.
But national governments, including New Zealand's, remain unwilling to invest in innovation at the scale demanded by the 21st Century.
University of Sheffield professor Noel Sharkey believes autonomous vehicles present us with a great future opportunity to make our roads safer.
But he also believes that the technology is just not ready yet and needs to mature before it goes on the road.
Sharkey says, “Google is a good example in continually testing for over a decade.
“Uber, like Tesla, is rushing headlong into this too quickly, too many mistakes and the public may turn its back on the technology.”
“A better approach is to use many of the features of self-drive cars to make our current vehicle less accident prone. “
An incremental approach is not so exciting but it will be much safer in the long run.