On Tuesday, a woman was charged with negligent homicide after one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona.
For years, Uber and other companies in the self-driving vehicle industry have relied on “safety drivers”—people who sit in the driver’s seat ready to intervene—to make up for the technology’s significant limitations. On March 18 2018, Rafaela Vasquez, a driver for Uber, crashed into Elaine Herzberg while the latter was crossing the street. It was the first death caused by a fatal accident with a self-driving vehicle.
The National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation shortly after the crash that ran until November 2019, during which time prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges against Uber for Herzberg’s death. In the federal report, blame was leveled at multiple parties: Uber, the safety driver, the victim, and the state of Arizona itself.
The report blasted Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, which is