Uber was told on Monday evening to suspend its autonomous car-testing program in Arizona. The move follows the death of Elaine Herzberg, a pedestrian who was struck and killed by one of the company's self-driving vehicles on March 18. According to the Associated Press, Governor Doug Ducey told Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi that public safety should be a top priority, and that "[t]he incident that took place… is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation."
In recent months, Arizona has become a hotbed of autonomous-vehicle testing. In contrast to California, the state has very little in the way of oversight, and both Waymo and Uber have been testing extensively, along with other, smaller self-driving programs. Beyond carrying liability insurance, autonomous vehicles are free to drive and aren't subject to the crash or disengagement reports required by Arizona's neighbor to the west.
Herzberg's death has shone a spotlight on a state which was already unfriendly to pedestrians—in the same week as this fatal crash, nine other pedestrians were killed by vehicles. But humans are generally more accepting of the risk from other human drivers than they are machines, and now Uber has the distinction of being responsible for the first self-driving fatality. Even though the company voluntarily suspended its testing program in Arizona and elsewhere, Ducey's action presumably means it can't start up again without official permission.