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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Uber settles with family of victim in fatal self-driving car crash

The family of a woman killed by an Uber self-driving vehicle in Arizona has reached a settlement with the company, halting a potential legal battle over the first death caused by an autonomous vehicle.

Cristina Perez Hesano, an attorney with the firm of Bellah Perez in Glendale, Arizona, said "the matter has been resolved" between Uber and the daughter and husband of Elaine Herzberg.

Herzberg, 49, died after being hit by an Uber self-driving SUV while walking across a street in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe on March 18.

Terms of the settlement were not given.

The law firm representing Herzberg's daughter and husband, whose names were not disclosed, said they would have no further comment on the matter as they considered it resolved.

An Uber spokeswoman declined to comment.

The accident could stall the development and testing of self-driving vehicles, designed to eventually perform far better than human drivers and to sharply reduce the number of motor vehicle fatalities that occur each year.

Uber has suspended its testing after the incident. Toyota Motor Corp and chipmaker Nvidia Corp have also suspended self-driving testing on public roads, as they and others await the results of investigations into the Tempe accident, believed to be the first death of a pedestrian struck by a self-driving vehicle.

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Comment: Self-driving cars: Has the time come for a pit stop?

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Nvidia's chief executive, Jensen Huang, said Uber does not use the chipmaker's self-driving platform architecture.

Toyota North America chief executive, Jim Lentz, said the company expects to “soon” resume testing of self-driving vehicles, while warning that the ongoing risks will affect the industry's progress.

"There will be mistakes from vehicles, from systems, and a hundred or 500 or a thousand people could lose their lives in accidents like we’ve seen in Arizona," Mr Lentz said on Thursday .

“The big question for government is: How much risk are they willing to take? If you can save net 34,000 lives, are you willing to potentially have 10 or 100 or 500 or 1,000 people die?" he said.

"And I think the answer to that today is they are not willing to take that risk - and that’s going to really slow down the adoption of autonomous driving."

The March 18 road death also presents an unprecedented liability challenge because self-driving vehicles, which are still in the development stage, involve a complex system of hardware and software often made by outside suppliers.

Herzberg was pushing a bicycle while walking across a four-lane road outside a crosswalk when she was struck. Video footage from a dash-mounted camera inside the vehicle, released by Tempe police, showed the SUV travelling along a dark street when the headlights suddenly illuminated Herzberg in front of the SUV.

Other footage showed that in the seconds before the accident, the human safety driver behind the wheel was mostly looking down, not at the road.

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