Serious incidents involving Tesla and Uber self-driving cars call the technology into question

By Preeti Pandey

Around two years ago Uber launched its driverless car service. It was one of the most ambitious projects from the company. This move put Uber well ahead of the competition. As part of the project, Dough Ducey, the governor of Arizona, and the company entered into a special agreement under which Uber was allowed to test its driverless cars on Arizona roads with few formalities.

Two fatal incidents: Tesla and Uber

Earlier this month, on March 18th, one Uber testing vehicle accidentally struck and killed a pedestrian named Elaine Herzberg. The incident brought problems involving autonomous cars back into the limelight. The case has been resolved with the victim’s family; however, the investigation is still ongoing. It remains a mystery how a car equipped with such advanced technologies like sensors, radars and a backing driver still failed to apply the brakes before the accident. In the wake of this incident, Uber has stopped its testing programmes and Arizona has suspended Uber’s permission to test on its roads.

Another Auto major giant, Tesla, was put in a similar situation when one of their Model X cars was involved in a fatal accident. The car was damaged to such an extent that Tesla has considered it to be the highest level of damage yet done to the model. The front of the vehicle was ripped apart and caught fire. Wei Huang, the owner of Model X, died due to his injuries. According to the company’s statement, “Tesla battery packs are designed so that in the rare circumstance a fire occurs, it spreads slowly so that occupants have plenty of time to get out of the car”.

Tesla has a reputation like no other company in the auto sector. However, such a sever crash puts a question mark over the safety of its autonomous cars which are just beginning to appear on the market. The Model X which was involved in the accident was the same SUV that became the first to get a 5-star safety rating in 2017 from the National Highway Safety Administration. Tesla’s investigations into the incident are still ongoing. It cannot be said at this moment whether the driverless system was responsible for the crash.

Consequences for the two companies

It is extremely important for Tesla and Uber to sort the problem out as it will affect the future of the global autonomous car industry, which is expected to grow to occupy over 50 percent of the total automotive industry. The future of autonomous vehicles now rests on the shoulders of these two auto giants as, in the wake of the accidents, other major companies like Toyota and Nvidia have stopped their own testing of driverless cars. The accidents have put a serious dent in the automotive industry.

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