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The First Pedestrian Has Been Killed by a Self-Driving Car. Now What?

In Tempe, Arizona, an autonomous Uber struck and killed a woman crossing a street at night. The incident is likely to test the public’s tolerance of AVs on real-world roads.
A self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a woman crossing a road in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday night.
A self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a woman crossing a road in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday night. ABC-15.com via AP

On Sunday night, a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona. The incident represents a grim milestone in the age of automotive autonomy: It appears to be the “first known death of a pedestrian struck by an autonomous vehicle on public roads,” according to the New York Times.

Police reports state that the vehicle was in self-driving mode with a back-up driver present behind the wheel when it crashed into the woman around 10 p.m. on Mill Avenue just south of Curry Road. While initial media coverage suggested that the victim, identified by the Tempe Police Department as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, was riding a bicycle, later police reports say that she was “walking just outside of the crosswalk.”