Earlier this year, a 49-year-old Arizona woman was killed after being struck by one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles. It was a tragedy that sparked debate and incited doubt regarding the actual safety of autonomous vehicles. The testing program was put on hold and investigations have been ongoing ever since.
There are 214 million licensed drivers in the United States and one of them was behind the wheel of the autonomous vehicle as its safety operator. She was in charge of taking over control of the vehicle in the case of a technological malfunction or situations the AI didn’t recognize. Adult driving classes and any traffic lessons for those looking to learn to drive teach about distracted driving. A lot of accidents can be avoided by paying close attention to the road and your surroundings while driving.
A police report showed that the driver of the vehicle was watching TV when the pedestrian was killed. She was reportedly streaming an episode of The Voice while in the autonomous driving mode, behind the wheel.
“The report found that car operator, Rafaela Vasquez, looked up from her phone screen just half a second before the crash. The car was moving at 44 mph and did not brake before the accident.”
Uber has a strict policy regarding safety drivers using their mobile devices while behind the wheel, regardless of the vehicle’s autonomy. They’re fully cooperating with further investigations of the incident and the new information carries the possibility of vehicular manslaughter charges for the driver.
This tragedy reflects the importance of operator awareness, regardless of the helpful safety technologies that are becoming more ubiquitous with modern vehicles. The technological features of new cars are meant to supplement the lessons learned in driving school. Adult driving classes are especially important now as vehicles are coming with more advanced features as standard.
The road isn’t a place to be distracted, whether it’s by the technological features of your car, your phone, passengers, it doesn’t matter. It takes mere seconds of distraction to take a road trip from good time to tragedy. Your responsibility as a driver is to all the others around you. When that’s the direction you drive yourself, everyone (including you) will be much safer.
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