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Death by Self-Driving Uber Car

If you’ve followed this blog for any short period of time, you’ve probably picked up on my innate fear of robots. It’s somewhat unrelenting in its irrationality, but yet, things keep occurring to reinforce it.

Well, it happened again.

Self-driving cars have been a thing for a bit, yet I’m thankful that I’ve yet to encounter one in person. I would probably run. But for all of the media coverage of them as a bit of a technological bridge too far, they’ve had a fairly solid safety record—for a car that drives itself, of course. So solid, that Uber has dipped its toe into the self-driving car space, which (you would imagine) would eventually save them millions and millions of dollars in lieu of paying breathing, DNA-comprised drivers.

That experiment has been halted indefinitely with yesterday’s news of a self-driving Uber car hitting and killing a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Initial reports say the woman was struck while walking her bike in the road, and the vehicle did not seem to slow down prior to impact—even with an emergency driver in the car.

Very, very scary stuff.

It’s the first case of a pedestrian being injured or killed as the result of a self-driving car, and it will predictably set back the burgeoning technology that ordinary people, businesses, and government regulators are still trying to understand. No mention of how this will affect the nascent self-flying helicopter taxi industry.

Tech innovations are moving so fast these days that it almost appears like industries are in a robotic arms race to one-up each other. The tragic news out of Tempe might be a sign that we should just slow down a bit.

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