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Govt. officials put the brakes on self-driving vehicles

Posted on 27 March, 2018

More than a week after an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, government officials and technology firms have begun reconsidering their deployment of the autonomous technology due to fears it may not be ready for public testing.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey banned Uber’s self-driving cars from the state’s roads Monday, stating he was “very disturbed” by police video showing the fatality.

The ban was limited to Uber, but held special significance because Ducey had previously welcomed Uber’s testing in the state by pitting Arizona’s comparatively relaxed regulatory framework to neighbouring California.

In a letter to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi on Monday, Ducey said he was suspending the company’s self-driving tests until further notice, calling the video “disturbing and alarming” and explaining that it “raises many questions about the ability of Uber to continue testing in Arizona.”

 “Improving public safety has always been the emphasis of Arizona’s approach to autonomous vehicle testing, and my expectation is that public safety is also the top priority for all who operate this technology in the state of Arizona,” Ducey told Khosrowshahi in his letter. “The incident that took place on March 18 is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation.”

A spokesman for the governor said the ban would last indefinitely. “We want to see the results of the pending investigations before making any further decisions,” the spokesman said. Pressed on why Uber was the only company whose self-driving operations were ordered suspended, the spokesman, Patrick Ptak, said it was because “there are currently three investigations into the company’s accident and technology.” Several technology firms and automakers are testing self-driving vehicles in the state, which does not require special permits. Uber has already voluntarily suspended autonomous vehicle testing across North America in the wake of the crash. Computer chip-maker Nvidia also suspended its autonomous vehicle tests on Tuesday amid the investigations into the Uber crash, Nvidia spokesman Fazel Adabi said. Nvidia supplies computing technology for Uber’s self-driving cars, including for the same model involved in last week’s crash, and is testing self-driving cars in California and New Jersey, among other locations.