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Uber's Self-Driving Car Kills Pedestrian: What Are the Legal Consequences?

You don't have to be a complete control freak for the idea of self-driving cars to terrify you. And even if the technology would actually make our roads safer in the long run, a new tragedy out of Tempe, Arizona involving a pedestrian is sure to ignite another round of debates over the wisdom of allowing these test vehicles on our roads just yet.

An Uber test vehicle, driving in autonomous mode, hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe on Sunday. Although there was a safety driver at the wheel and the pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg, was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, the accident could have serious legal consequences for the company.

Uber Suspends All Testing

After what appears to be the first time an autonomous car has killed a pedestrian, Uber suspended its self-driving vehicles in all cities where they're operating, including Tempe, Toronto, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh. The company is cooperating in the investigation, and the plethora of cameras on the car -- including the one pointed at the driver -- are sure to be useful evidence as investigators try to determine what went wrong.

Possible Legal Consequences

As local police and the National Transportation Safety Board investigate the incident, many are naturally questioning the safety of the program. Maybe these cars shouldn't be on our roads until they've been tested even more. Others argue that autonomous cars are still safer than those operated solely by humans. This is, after all, the first death caused by a self-driving car.

In this case, both the human and the company may face legal consequences. The safety driver, although not appearing to be impaired, could be held legally responsible for not intervening when conditions became unsafe for the pedestrian. However, Uber could also be held responsible, and may even face criminal charges depending on how the car accident occurred. An investigation is still ongoing, but presently police say that Uber is likely not at fault given the facts that have emerged. Apparently, the collision would have been difficult to avoid even if a human had been driving.

While you may not have had a run-in with an driverless vehicle, any type of accident that causes injuries should be investigated. Contact a local attorney to ensure your interests are protected, no matter the circumstances.

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