No plans to tighten driverless testing rules in Arizona

TEMPE/DETROIT • Arizona officials said on Tuesday that they saw no immediate need to tighten rules on the testing of self-driving cars in the state, after a fatal accident involving an Uber autonomous vehicle that has focused attention on the safety of the new technology.

Police said a video from the Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, on Sunday shows her moving in front of it suddenly - a factor investigators are likely to focus on as they assess the technology.

The discovery also means Uber's potential liability in her death may be limited. The car's forward-facing video recorder showed the woman walking with a bicycle at about 10pm local time and moving into traffic from a dark centre median.

"It's very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode," Ms Sylvia Moir, the police chief in Tempe, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

"The driver said it was like a flash - the person walked out in front of them," she said, referring to the backup driver who was behind the wheel but not operating the vehicle.

Her account raises new questions in the investigation that holds importance to the future of the burgeoning autonomous vehicle industry. Uber halted tests after the accident and officials in Boston asked that similar tests there be suspended too.

Arizona's director for policy and communications at the Department of Transportation, Mr Kevin Biesty, said on Tuesday existing regulations were sufficient and there were no immediate plans to issue new rules.

"We believe we have enough in our laws right now to regulate automobiles," he said. "There will be issues that the legislature will have to address in the future as these become more widespread."

Full details are still forthcoming over the death of Ms Elaine Herz-berg, 49. The homeless woman was hit by Uber's test vehicle - a Volvo SC 90 SUV operating in autonomous mode - while crossing the four-lane road outside the crosswalk.

Meanwhile, Toyota Motor said it will pause autonomous vehicle testing, to help its test drivers, who could be experiencing "an emotional effect" from the incident.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline 'No plans to tighten driverless testing rules in Arizona'. Print Edition | Subscribe