Uber has halted testing of its self-driving cars after a deadly accident involving one of them occurred late Sunday in Tempe, Arizona. An Uber vehicle traveling in autonomous mode struck a woman crossing the street. She died after being taken to the hospital.
In a statement, Tempe police said that around 10 p.m. Sunday, one of Uber’s self-driving cars was traveling in autonomous mode, when it struck a woman who was walking near the intersection of Curry Road and Mill Avenue, outside of the crosswalk. The woman, identified at 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, was transported to a local hospital where she passed away from her injuries. Police said her next of kin has not been notified.
“Uber is assisting and this is still an active investigation,” the statement said.
The crash appears to be the first known death of a pedestrian struck by an autonomous car on public roads. Autonomous car developers routinely test self-driving cars at night to see how the vehicles respond in more challenging environments. A safety operator was behind the wheel, customary in most self-driving car tests today.
Uber temporarily suspended testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family,” a spokesperson said. “We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.”
Shortly after the crash became known, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi called the news “incredibly sad.”
Nearly a year ago, Uber had to temporarily ground its self-driving car tests, after one of its self-driving Volvos got involved in a three-way crash. The latest incident is sure to draw attention of both regulators—the National Transportation Safety Board already said it’s launching an investigation—and autonomous car developers, who’ve raced to introduce the technology onto public roads with little oversight from policymakers.
Update (4:15 p.m.): Tempe police are now saying that Herzberg was pushing a bicycle across the street when she was struck. A press conference is scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT.
With reporting from Erik Shilling