A dangerous intersection?

It was not unthinkable, but it was certainly tragic.

This week in Tempe, Arizona, a pedestrian walked into the path of an Uber Volvo SUV that was driving by autonomous control. She was killed.

The accident remains under investigation, including why the non-driving observer in the vehicle was not able to take corrective measures. This is believed to be the first pedestrian death associated with self-driving technology on a public road and it has put a damper on the nascent, but rapidly developing world of autonomous vehicles. Uber has suspended its on-road program for now.

WARNING: Some readers may find the video disturbing

This death highlights what we have previously noted and shared with our many automotive industry clients—PR challenges of consumer acceptance for autonomous vehicles.

“At the end of the day, it is abundantly clear that sizable public relations challenges exist for manufacturers. Chiefly, persuading a marketplace to give up day-to-day control of one of the most expensive and emotional purchases (besides their home) they will ever make will certainly be a challenging and complex task to accomplish.”

There has always been a potentially dangerous intersection between people and vehicles, one that autonomous vehicle technology is meant to improve. After all, many of the technologies used in autonomous vehicles derive from advances made in conventional human-controlled vehicles.

As we progress on this transportation journey, the issues this tragedy raises will only grow. The automotive industry should be prepared to respond in a responsible, forthcoming, reassuring manner.