The family of the victim killed by a self-driving car tested by Uber in Arizona has finally reached a settlement with the company. This means that the possibility of a legal battle is over. This case is really important in the future of autonomous car because it’s the first time that a fatality is caused by a car like this.
A pretty secret agreement
It is considered as a win for the ride-hailing company because it has prevented them from a public case, even though the case has already made a scandal.
Christina Perez Hesano, the lawyer of the family’s victim said that they had “no further comments on this matter as it has been resolved”. Uber declined to comment on the case and the terms of the settlement are still secret for now.
Bryant Walker Smith, assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law said “I respect the family’s privacy, but I also wish that the terms here were public. I associate transparency with trustworthiness, and I would encourage Uber to be more public about its process in general,”. Indeed, the fact that Uber is trying to smother the case is not as reassuring as it’s supposed to be when we talk about self-driving cars.
An incident that could slow the self-driving car progress
Uber has suspended its testing on a public road after this incident. Other actors in this sector like Toyota Motor Corp and the chipmaker Nvidia Corp have also stopped their self-driving tests. All the companies in this sector are waiting for the result of the investigation as it is the first reported death of a pedestrian killed by a self-driving vehicle. It may be the responsibility of one of Uber’s suppliers.
The incident is questioning the liability of this new-born technology which is still in development. Moreover, some experts believe that Uber’s sensors and autonomous devices might have been able to avoid the collision.
In this case, the responsibility of each person or system involved in this accident is hard to determine. The victim was pushing her bicycle whilst walking across a four-lane road and she was not inside a crosswalk. Moreover, we can see in a video, released by Tempe police, that the driver of the car was not paying attention to the road but mostly looking down. Finally, the road was dark and that’s maybe what has confused the car’s sensors.
The last question is the risk that governments are willing to take when talking about autonomous cars. Jim Lentz said, “If you can save 34,000 lives, are you willing to potentially have 10 or 100 or 500 or 1,000 people die? ”. Risks are the key to progress and the result of the investigation will clearly impact the future of self-driving cars.