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Uber self driving
A self-driving Uber vehicle on the streets of Pittsburgh. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

A woman who was struck by a self-driving Uber vehicle on Sunday in Tempe, Ariz., died from her injuries. In response, the company has pulled its fleet of autonomous cars off the streets of four test cities and one prominent researcher called it a “nightmare” scenario.

Tempe Police said the vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver behind the wheel when the incident occurred Sunday at approximately 10 p.m. The woman, who has not been publicly identified, was struck outside of a crosswalk.

The New York Times reported that the incident appears to be the first known death of a person hit by an autonomous vehicle on a public roadway.

In a statement to GeekWire, Uber said that there was no passenger in the vehicle at the time and that one operator was in the front seat. The company said that it was cooperating with an investigation by local authorities.

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also tweeted his condolences in reacting to “incredibly sad news out of Arizona.”

In response to the incident Monday morning, Uber pulled its self-driving fleet off roads in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

“This is the nightmare all of us working in this domain always worried about,” Raj Rajkumar, head of Carnegie Mellon University’s self-driving laboratory, told Axios.

Rajkumar said carmakers and tech companies should freeze their race to field autonomous vehicles because “clearly the technology is not where it needs to be.” He added, “This isn’t like a bug with your phone. People can get killed. Companies need to take a deep breath. The technology is not there yet. We need to keep people in the loop.”

In Pittsburgh, where GeekWire spent the month of February reporting on that city’s tech scene, self-driving Uber SUVs can be seen everywhere. The company has a large presence with its Advanced Technologies Group, which it set up in the city three years ago.

Read more about GeekWire’s experience riding in one of the self-driving cars.

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