Uber’s autonomous vehicles are no longer welcome in Arizona.
That’s according to the state’s governor Doug Ducey.
Around 10 PM on March 18, one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles struck a woman as she crossed a road in Tempe, Arizona. She later died from her injuries at a local hospital. This was the first time an AV caused a pedestrian fatality.
Yesterday, Ducey sent a letter to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi responding to the incident:
As governor, my top priority is public safety. Improving public safety has always been the emphasis of Arizona’s approach to autonomous vehicle testing, and my expectation is that public safety is also the top priority for all who operate this technology in the state of Arizona. The incident that took place on March 18 is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation…
In the best interests of the people of my state, I have directed the Arizona Department of Transportation to suspend Uber’s ability to test and operate autonomous vehicles on Arizona’s public roadways.
Immediately following the crash, Uber suspended all autonomous vehicle testing nationwide.
But what’s remarkable is that Ducey restricted the penalty to the one company responsible: Uber. Waymo, General Motors, Mobileye, and various other AV manufacturers are also testing in the state; in the wake of the pedestrian death, Ducey could have chosen to ban all AV testing outright. Instead, he chose to allow other manufacturers to continue their testing in the state.
In fact, the other companies still allowed will soon be able to take those test to the next level. 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.
It’s still possible that other states will suspend Uber, or other AV testing. But so far, fears that the incident would hinder the maturation of autonomous vehicle technology seem to be unfounded.