In response, Uber on Monday temporarily pulled its self-driving cars off the roads where it has been testing them in four cities. An Uber spokeswoman said the company is investigating the incident and cooperating with authorities. Police in Tempe, Ariz., said the Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety operator at the wheel when it hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg on Sunday night while she was walking her bicycle outside of a crosswalk. The woman later died from her injuries, according to a police statement. While it isn't clear yet whether Uber's vehicle was at fault in the accident, the fatality confirmed the fears of those who have warned for several years that someone would eventually die from driverless cars.
California is the favorite destination for technology and automotive companies to test out their self-driving technology -- around 27 companies are testing their self-driving vehicles in the state. Keeping in mind the scale of the technology in the state, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) proposed some regulations governing the use of the technology on the state roads in March. On Friday, some companies invested in the technology -- including tech giant Apple -- petitioned the state to consider changing its proposed rules. "Apple believes that all those developing and deploying automated vehicles should follow rigorous safety principles in design, testing, and production. Such principles should not, however, inhibit companies from making consequential progress--there is no need to compromise safety or innovation," Steve Kenner Director of Product Integrity, Apple said in a letter addressed to Brian G. Soublet, deputy director and chief counsel, Department of Motor Vehicles, Legal Affairs Division, State of California.
More than eight years after it began, Waymo, the company spun out of Google X's self-driving car project, believes its technology is ready to take to public roads as a fully self-driving car -- without anyone in the driver's seat. Waymo's fleet of autonomous vehicles is now prepared to drive on public roads without a safety operator, according to CEO John Krafcik, who announced the development onstage at the Web Summit in Lisbon. The company also shared some details about the expansion of its pilot program in a blog post. Neither Krafcik nor the company's reps shared exactly what has given the company the confidence to declare their vehicles "fully" self-driving, but it appears that Waymo has achieved Level 4 autonomy, which means the car can handle every aspect of the driving experience on its own without need for human intervention. Most other companies currently conducting self-driving tests are only at Level 3, a level that still requires a human operator for some (if not most) situations.
Autonomous driving is catching on globally even though some major work on the technology is still being done in the U.S. The latest company to join the global self-driving race is Microsoft, which has teamed up with its Chinese rival Baidu to spur the global adoption of self-driving. "Today's vehicles already have an impressive level of sophistication when it comes to their ability to capture data. By applying our global cloud AI, machine learning and deep neural network capabilities to that data, we can accelerate the work already being done to make autonomous vehicles safer," Kevin Dallas, corporate vice-president, Microsoft said in the press release Tuesday. Both companies are working on creating the background support for self-driving, including cloud infrastructure, software stack and other services which can support self-driving car functions. Baidu has set-up the Apollo self-driving platform, which the company claims can become the "Android" of the self-driving industry i.e. the company would provide open source software to self-driving car manufacturers just like Google provides to smartphone companies.
Volvo is set to test self-driving cars on the streets of London. Self-driving vehicles may be ready to hit the road in a matter of years, but U.S. drivers aren't yet comfortable with the idea, a new survey shows. Nearly 46 percent of U.S. drivers surveyed in April said their preferred level of automoation is "no self-driving," according to a survey from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Another 38.7 percent said they prefer "some" self-driving, while 15.5 percent said the are ready for "completely" self-driving vehicles. The poll, which surveyed 618 licensed drivers in the U.S., also found that 94.5 percent of respondents said they'd prefer it if self-driving cars have a steering wheel, as well as gas and break pedals.