After a pedestrian was struck and killed by a self driving Uber car in Arizona, testing of the self driving Uber cars in Toronto has stopped abruptly. Uber issues a statement last week indicating that it has ‘paused’ testing of all its autonomous cars in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Phoenix and Toronto.
A woman walking her bike in the dark across the road was struck and killed in Tempe, Arizona. She is believed to be the first fatality in an autonomous vehicle crash. A full police investigation into the accident is underway and Uber is co-operating with the police fully.
Ontario has had autonomous vehicle testing since January 2016 on a limited basis. Testing rules include having a human driver in the vehicle seat at all times show is monitoring the car and its surroundings. The test programme is a ten year one and so far, has 7 approved groups driving on our roadways. Stratford has the largest test centre for the new cars. The town has a demonstration zone that allows researchers to test their cars in a wide range of situations in realistic traffic and weather. The investment is $80 million over 5 years. The hope is that automakers, tech leaders and business can all partner together in the innovation center collaborating on the results and building on success and failures.
Ontario is a global leading in the auto sector and in innovations and technology. With this test centre the province and manufacturers can come together to advance the technology. The AV industry employs almost 10 000 people in Ontario according to the province. Ontario is taking an aggressive position pushing STEM education in highs chool and increasing the number of post secondary students graduating in science, tech, engineering and maths who will be supporting the push to technology-based employment now and in the future.
While the Uber car in Arizona did have a ‘back up’ human driver, it appears the driver was not paying attention to the road until too late. This fact highlights on of the greatest dangers of cars than can be switched to autonomous mode but that rely on a human driver as well. Humans lose interest in the task of driving within minutes of sitting behind the wheel with nothing to do except watch. It is crucial that autonomous vehicles be fully ready for the road ways before they are set loose on our roadways. The computers cannot rely on us to back them up.