Arizona governor suspends Uber's ability to test self-driving cars

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The accident involving an Uber self-driving vehicle that occurred in Arizona on March 18, which resulted in the death of a pedestrian crossing the street, has South Korean autonomous auto researchers at work to develop technology that would enhance the road safety of autonomous cars.

In a letter addressed to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said he was moved to act after seeing videos of last week's deadly crash, which he described as "disturbing and alarming". The crash, which occurred late at night in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she was walking her bicycle across a dimly lit city street.

"Prior to resuming autonomous vehicle testing operations in California, Uber must apply for a new autonomous vehicle testing permit".

Uber said it withdrew its California application on Friday because it wouldn't have been able to respond to questions from the state's regulators until it had time to review the findings of the investigation in Arizona.

Uber has not said whether the sensors in its self-driving vehicle detected Herzberg in the seconds before the accident. Less than three weeks before the Uber incident, Ducey signed an executive order giving companies permission to test their AVs without a human driver behind the wheel. The bulk of Uber's testing was in Arizona, but it was also driving autonomous vehicles on roads in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

Uber declined to comment to The Register, though it did confirm that it wrote the software the auto was running.

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In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AZCentral, Ducey said safety was his primary reason for suspending the self-driving tests. She was transported to a local area hospital where she passed away from her injuries.

He acknowledged ongoing investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration but said Arizona "must take action now".

On Friday, The New York Times reported the company's own documents showed the testing program was rife with issues.

Nonetheless, the announcement is a swift reversal for a state once called the "Wild West" of self-driving cars.

Companies developing self-driving technology, which also include General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp and a host of startups, are waiting to see whether fall-out from the accident leads to new restrictions on the relatively unregulated sector.

The NTSB said it will be gathering information about the onboard technology and "beginning collection of any and all electronic data stored on the test vehicle or transmitted to Uber". Toyota has also suspended its driverless auto tests, citing the "emotional effect" the incident could have on its test drivers.

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