TEMPE, Ariz./SAN FRANCISCO, March 19 (Reuters) – A woman crossing a street was killed by an Uber self-driving sport utility vehicle in Arizona, police said on Monday, prompting the ride services company to suspend its autonomous vehicle program.
The accident in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe dealt a potential blow not only to Uber’s strategy but the eventual rollout of robot cars on public roads.
It was the first fatality from a self-driving vehicle, which are being tested around the globe in a high-profile race by global automakers and tech companies expecting that autonomous vehicles will transform transportation and the ride services business.
The vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel at the time of the accident, which occurred overnight Sunday to Monday, Tempe police said.
“The vehicle was traveling northbound … when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle,” police said in a statement.
Police identified the victim as Elaine Herzberg, 49. Herzberg later died from her injuries in a hospital, police said.
Local television footage of the scene showed a crumpled bike and a Volvo XC90 SUV with a smashed-in front.
Tempe is 11 miles (18 km) east of Phoenix.
An Uber Technologies Inc spokesman said the company was suspending North American tests of its self-driving vehicles. In a tweet, Uber expressed its condolences and said the San Francisco-based company was fully cooperating with authorities.