A fatal accident Sunday night involving an Uber self-driving car in Arizona halted the company’s driverless program in a state where the government has largely maintained a hands-off approach to regulating the development of autonomous car technology.
The accident has sparked new concerns over lax laws regarding autonomous vehicles in supportive states like Arizona, California, and Michigan — so much so, in fact, that activist groups such as Consumer Watchdog have warned of the technology not being ready to be tested on public roads yet. Arizona’s laws favoring free enterprise, along with its “self-driving war” with California, have led the state to take the lead in the autonomous vehicle testing race. It was effected, in part, thanks to 2015 governor executive order that aimed to avoid over-regulation.
“The state believes that the development of self-driving vehicle technology will promote economic growth, bring new jobs, provide research opportunities for the state’s academic institutions and their students and faculty, and allow the state to host the emergence of new technologies,” Gov. Doug Ducey’s order stated back in 2015.
Nevertheless, Arizona has already experienced a few accidents involving Waymo and Uber driverless cars, but they’ve only caused minor injuries. In previous incidences, state agencies did not fault the vehicle technologies themselves.
The Tempe incident is being reported as the first ever fatal accident involving self-driving vehicles. Meanwhile, Uber has suspended trials of its self-driving programs in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto, which the company says is standard protocol.
It’s unclear at this time whether the state of Arizona will tighten its autonomous testing laws following the fatal accident, or continue to support the breakthrough trials of driverless programs being conducted in the state.