Toyota has pressed pause on its self-driving vehicle development, after an Arizona woman was killed yesterday by an autonomous Uber test vehicle.
According to a report published in Bloomberg, the Toyota Research Institute fears the incident could impact test drivers in its ‘Chauffeur’ program.
“Because we feel the incident may have an emotional effect on our test drivers, we have decided to temporarily pause our Chauffeur mode testing on public roads,” Bryan Lyons, TRI spokesman, told Bloomberg.
The company was testing in Michigan and California, and unveiled a new-generation self-driving tester at this year’s CES event in Las Vegas in January. Its fleet was relatively small – there’s no official word on exactly how many cars – for “continued flexibility” as technology evolves, allowing rapid updates to be more easily rolled out as required.
As for the Uber accident driving the decision? A 49-year-old woman was killed in Tempe, Arizona, after being struck by an Uber-branded Volvo XC90 test vehicle running in self-driving mode earlier this week.
Early investigations indicate the XC90 was doing around 65km/h when it hit the victim, and showed no “significant signs” of slowing down before the collision.
The victim wasn’t using a pedestrian crossing when she was hit.
“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We’re fully cooperating with Tempe Police and local authorities as they investigate this incident,” Uber tweeted, shortly after the crash.
The car was carrying an operator – essentially a human babysitter, responsible for monitoring the road and taking control if things go wrong – at the time, but there were no passengers on board. Police have spoken with the driver.
The US National Transport Safety Board is investigating the accident.