As college students, we are no strangers to ride services like Uber and Lyft. Whether we are using the mobile apps to order a ride for a night out with friends or to simply transport us to campus, the service ensures an efficient experience each time. However, the new self-driving vehicles that Uber has introduced have proven to be unsafe and are a threat to driving jobs.
At around 10 p.m. on March 18, a 49-year old woman in Arizona crossed a crosswalk with her bicycle. While this is an activity that most of us have done at some point, this woman was unsuspecting of the fact that she would be struck and killed by a self-driving Uber SUV. The surveillance footage from inside the Uber shows that the vehicle did not even detect the woman in its direct path.
On top of all of this, the backup driver who was in the Uber at the time is a convicted felon with a history of traffic citations. The backup driver can be seen in the surveillance video in the car at the time of the collision looking down at their phone and not forward at the road. If he would have taken action and done his job, the fatality could have possibly been prevented.
David King, an Arizona professor and transportation expert explains that the laser technology used by the self-driving cars is designed to detect exactly what it failed to see when it struck the woman.
“This is a catastrophic failure that happened with Uber’s technology,” said King.
A driver likely would have detected the pedestrian and had a much quicker reaction time. While Uber temporarily suspended the automatic vehicles, the self-driving feature directly threatens innocent pedestrians, users of the app, and the driving jobs that provide income for about 16,000 Uber employees.
While this failure is inexcusable, it is not the first incident where Uber has had an issue with self-driving vehicles. In February, Fortune reported that Uber’s self-driving vehicles missed at least six red lights in San Francisco. It seems as though Uber is continuously taking short cuts and failing to protect users, pedestrians, and other vehicles on the road.
Uber should eliminate the self-driving feature entirely. While experts claim that the computing systems are far safer than human drivers, the mistakes have allowed for users of the app to lose trust in the company and for one woman to lose her life.
Personally, I won’t be taking any self-driving Ubers anytime soon. As for the company, they should give the jobs back to drivers and work on reassessing operations over at their headquarters.
Their credibility, countless jobs, and apparently the safety of innocent pedestrians depends what they do next.
Samantha Moffett is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.