CNN – A self-driving Uber SUV struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she walked her bicycle across a street in Tempe, Arizona, Sunday night, according to the Tempe police. The department is investigating the crash.
I’m sure you’ve heard the story already. It has been making its rounds in the rideshare community over the last 24 hours to much delight from drivers, which is sad, but understandable. A reality that Uber drivers are facing is that these cars are going to take their jobs, so hearing news of a setback is always encouraging. The fact that someone died is obviously tragic and I don’t know a single person who is happy she died, but it’s a part of the ongoing battle between Uber and it’s drivers. We are at the point where drivers are looking for any and all setbacks to this self-driving takeover because they’re terrified of losing their jobs. Uber drivers are (ironically enough) dealing with what taxi drivers have been facing over the last few years.
Reports are coming out that the car was not actually at fault (which is good because I don’t think prison orange would be a good color for that car)
Due to it being reported that Uber is not at fault, I have a feeling they will resume this program very soon and continue full steam. Uber as a company is not going to be deterred by this, but I think this will do a major hit to the already fragile trust that people have in these cars. I’ve spoken with quite a few riders about self-driving cars and right now there was not a single person who seemed comfortable with the idea.
The reality is that even if Uber or any company get the perfect system going for self-driving technology, winning over the public is going to be a hard sell that will take time. Even then, there will be a bigger barrier than trust and that is other cars on the road. Let’s be real, if you got rid of every human driver and put self-driving technology in, the roads would be pretty safe. Much more than they are right now. However, every human driver that remains on the road causes a disruption of the flow of traffic which is going to create massive headaches everywhere.
These cars are meant to obey all traffic laws, but also stop in time to prevent an accident. If someone is pulling out of a side street and sees a self-driving car cruising down the street, they’re going to feel very confident about cutting that car off because they know the computer is going to slam on the brakes. The car is also not going to go into road rage and chase down the aggressive driver.
People were predicting that the technology for these cars will be near perfect by 2020, but the barriers these companies face before people trust them are going to take much longer.