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First Pedestrian Death from Self-Driving Car Reported in Arizona

UPDATE: Self-Driving Uber Kills a Pedestrian in Arizona—Who Will be Liable?

On March 18, 2018 Elaine Herzberg became the first pedestrian death associated with self-driving cars, when she was hit by one of Uber’s autonomous test cars. Now, her surviving family members are suing the city of Tempe—claiming that the design of the median encouraged her to “jay walk.”

However:

  • What about the “driver”?
  • What about Uber?

Unanswered questions remain regarding who will be responsible for this technology still in its infancy.

Although the vehicle that struck and killed Elaine Herzberg was “autonomous”, there was nevertheless a “diver” who was supposed to take over in case the car encountered a problem. It turns out that at the time of the incident, this “driver”—rather than watching and paying attention to the road—was watching and streaming television.

What are the duties of a “driver” of an autonomous car? Can they be responsible if they are not actually tasked with controlling the vehicle?  The law on this subject is state-specific, so contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your state for advice.

What are the duties of Uber? Are their “drivers” independent contractors or employees? If Uber “drivers” are independent contractors can Uber be responsible for the actions of their “drivers”? Again, the law on this subject is state-specific, so contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your state for advice.

Although it is yet to be determined if the City of Tempe will be liable for Ms. Herzberg’s death, the question still remains: If the “driver” is not responsible, and Uber is not responsible—does this ultimately result in these possible defendants shirking responsibility while leaving future plaintiffs with no ability to recover for their bodily injuries?

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