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Uber breaks self-driving car record: First robo-ride to kill a pedestrian

Autonomous auto system tests halted after woman dies

Updated A woman has died after she was hit by one of Uber's autonomous cars in the US.

The taxi app maker said it is cooperating with the cops in the wake of the death.

According to police, Uber's vehicle was driving itself, although it had a human pilot behind the wheel, when it hit a woman crossing the street in Tempe, Arizona.

The accident happened on Sunday outside of the crosswalk near the intersection of Mill Avenue and Curry Road, according to telly news station ABC15. The woman, whose name has not been released, was taken to hospital, where she died of her injuries.

The deadly collision is believed to be the first time a self-driving car operating fully in autonomous mode has killed a pedestrian. Computer-controlled vehicles have previously suffered prangs, and at least one Tesla driver was killed in a smash after engaging Autopilot. That said, Tesla's technology is more super-cruise-control than truly hands-free autonomous driving. And that crash killed the bloke behind the wheel, not someone outside the car, which is what happened in Arizona over the weekend.

San Francisco-based Uber's CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took to Twitter to offer his sympathies on Monday:

Uber has suspended all self-driving car tests in Arizona, San Francisco, Canada, and elsewhere, following the death, it is understood. "Our hearts go out to the victim’s family," an Uber spokesperson said today. "We’re fully cooperating with Tempe Police and local authorities as they investigate this incident."

It was initially reported that the victim was a cyclist, however, it later emerged she was walking her bike across the road when the robo-ride struck.

Arizona has been one of America's regions where self-driving cars have been permitted to operate under state law. A number of US states, including California, have been considering their own laws to allow self-driving cars to run on public roads without a human behind the wheel at all. ®

Updated to add

According to the San Francisco Chronicle tonight, Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir, having reviewed the car's camera footage, concluded "it’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode [autonomous or human-driven] based on how [the victim] came from the shadows right into the roadway."

The self-driving vehicle was doing 38MPH in a 45MPH zone, we're told. The woman was 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was possibly homeless.

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