A woman is walking her bicycle across a street at night. She is wearing light colored clothing. A car approaches. Its headlights shine upon her. The car does not slow down. It is traveling at 40 miles per hour. The car does not brake. Inside the car, another woman sits behind the wheel. She does not steer. She does not brake. She just sits there. At the last second, just before the collision, the woman behind the wheel shrieks. But it is too late to react. The pedestrian is down. She is dead.
In the 20th Century traditional car accident case, no question about who’s responsible: the driver. But this case is different. There is no driver. The car was driving itself. The car is owned by Uber. Uber’s engineers designed the car to be driverless. The woman sitting behind the wheel was not driving. She is an Uber employee and was supposed to be “monitoring” the vehicle, just in case the vehicle made a mistake.
This collision, which occurred Sunday night in Tempe, Arizona, was a major setback for Uber. But also for the entire self-driving car industry. It is believed to be the first pedestrian death caused by a self-driving car.