A newly released video of the fatal accident involving a pedestrian and an Uber Technologies Inc. self-driving car appears to show the vehicle heading straight into a woman walking her bike across the road without slowing down or swerving to avoid her. The video, collected by Tempe, Ariz., police from cameras inside and outside the Uber vehicle, appears to also show the human safety operator at the wheel was looking down for approximately five seconds before the moment of impact. This person's role is to take over controls to help prevent accidents or erratic driving from the robot vehicle. The fatality prompted Uber to temporarily pull its self-driving vehicles from four North American cities while investigators determine the circumstances. No charges have been filed and Tempe police on Wednesday said they are actively investigating Sunday night's accident and will submit their findings to the Maricopa County Attorney's office.
The potential hit to their bottom lines has property-casualty insurers in an arms race to figure out how they can design policies and price the risk of the vehicles that technology firms, such as Uber and Alphabet Inc., GOOGL -0.16% are seeking to deploy in huge numbers, according to industry brokers, executives and trade groups. It isn't clear that the death this week in Arizona would be an example of how liability would shake out for the industry. A person familiar with Uber said the firm's test vehicles are insured through a commercial-insurance policy for a maximum of $5 million per accident. The insurer or insurers couldn't immediately be learned. The Uber accident highlights a likely broader trend to come in driverless cars.
Perfecting the technology is essential to Uber, as autonomous vehicles could pare significant costs by replacing some 2.5 million human drivers and give it an edge in the technological race to upend personal and even commercial transportation. Uber is among auto makers and tech giants pursuing fully driverless cars on the belief they will ultimately save lives and costs. It isn't yet clear whether Uber is at fault, but the accident puts Mr. Khosrowshahi in a difficult position. Like his predecessor, Travis Kalanick, he has publicly touted Uber's driverless-car program, saying it could one day eliminate the need for people to own cars. He has even trumpeted flying taxis as a viable business in as soon as five years to shuttle people around cities.
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.
These three companies--the so-called BATs--are plowing millions of dollars into electric-vehicle startups, car-sharing services and online retailers, as well as software platforms for autonomous driving and online car selling. U.S. tech companies, notably Alphabet Inc. and its self-driving car unit Waymo, also are pushing into the auto sector. But the BAT companies have a big advantage in China, where tight government internet controls make it difficult for foreign enterprises to compete. For example, non-Chinese companies aren't allowed to operate digital mapping systems needed for autonomous driving. That has prompted both foreign and domestic auto companies like Ford Motor Co., BMW AG, SAIC Motor Corp. and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. to seal tech partnerships with the BAT firms.
Last year, more than 15,000 victims lost some $210 million in "confidence frauds" and romance scams, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The lesson: Meeting people online comes with risks. And the way to protect yourself or someone you love isn't as simple as "Don't be foolish." Smart people fall prey to scams. Scammers are really good at what they do.
The companies plan to produce kits that can be installed on existing cars to enable them to operate autonomously, said Raj Kapoor, Lyft's chief strategy officer. Retrofitting cars, as opposed to building new ones, could help the company produce autonomous vehicles more quickly and inexpensively, he said. The announcement Wednesday adds to Lyft's extensive roster of self-driving-vehicle partners, which includes Ford Motor Co.; General Motors Co.; Alphabet's Waymo; nuTonomy Inc.; Tata Motors Ltd.'s Jaguar Land Rover; and Aptiv PLC, formerly Delphi. That stands in contrast to rival Uber Technologies Inc., which is primarily developing self-driving technology on its own rather than forging partnerships. Lyft's goal is to plug autonomous cars from partners into its network.
Critics, however, see it as an effort to blunt outside regulation by cities, states or the federal government, and they question if tech companies are best suited to shape the rules of the road. For the corporations, the algorithms will be proprietary tools to assess your loan-worthiness, your job application, and your risk of stroke. Many balk at the costs of developing systems that not only learn to make decisions, but that also explain those decisions to outsiders. When New York City proposed a law in August requiring that companies publish source code for algorithms used by city agencies, tech firms pushed back, saying they needed to protect proprietary algorithms. The city passed a scaled-back version in December without the source-code requirement.
The University of Cambridge professor was an iconic figure in both the scientific community and in popular culture, known for his keen mind and humor, as well as his striking physical challenges. Dr. Hawking had long battled with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which left him wheelchair-bound for most of his life. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease or motor neuron disease, the condition damages the nerves that control movement and results in paralysis. Patients with ALS typically die within five years of diagnosis. Dr. Hawking, who was diagnosed in 1963 at the age of 21, is believed to have been the longest-living survivor, a fact that still perplexes neurologists.
Earlier promises of progress turned out to be premature. The green light could be delayed again if proponents can't overcome nagging security concerns on the part of local or national law-enforcement agencies. Proposed projects also may end up stymied if Federal Aviation Administration managers don't find creative ways around legislative and regulatory restrictions such as those mandating pilot training for manned aircraft. But some proponents of delivery and other drone applications "think they might be ready to operate this summer," Jay Merkle, a senior FAA air-traffic control official, said during a break at an unmanned-aircraft conference in Baltimore last week that highlighted the agency's pro-business approach. At least 10 FAA-approved pilot programs for various drone initiatives--some likely including package delivery--are slated to start by May.