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Uber Suspends Self-Driving Car Operations After Fatal Arizona Accident

TEMPE, Arizona (CBS SF) – Uber has halted all of its self-driving car testing operations after one of its autonomous cars hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona early Monday.

The pedestrian was reportedly killed in a crash involving a self-driving SUV operated by Uber near Phoenix early Monday morning.

According to CBS affiliate KPHO-TV, a woman walking in a crosswalk was struck by the vehicle in the suburb of Tempe. Authorities said there was a person behind the wheel, but the vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash.

"She was transported to a local area hospital where she passed away from her injuries," Tempe police said.

Police later identified the victim as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg.

"We in Tempe, our hearts go out to the family and friends of the pedestrian that was struck crossing the street," said Tempe Police Sgt. Ronald Elcock.

Monday afternoon, Tempe police released additional details in the deadly crash.

The Uber employee behind the wheel was 44-year-old Rafael Vasquez.

"Preliminary investigation showed that the vehicle was traveling at about 40 miles per hour," said Sgt. Elcock. "Our investigation did not show at this time that there were significant signs of the vehicle slowing down."

Herzberg was walking her bike at the time of the accident.

Authorities said the collision is under investigation. On Twitter, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the San Francisco-based company is fully cooperating with local authorities.

The National Transportation Safety Board tweeted that it is also joining in the investigation.

After the news of the accident surfaced Monday morning, the company hit the brakes on self-driving operations in all test cities including Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

Russ Hancock is a Bay Area tech expert and the president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley.

He says while this is a setback for the autonomous car industry, he doesn't believe it's the end.

"The regulators have been slow to proceed. They've been extremely cautious," said Hancock. "Now the regulators are probably feeling vindicated. Now the folks in the industry are probably thinking yes we probably have more work to do."

Last March, Uber briefly suspended autonomous vehicle testing following another crash in Tempe. In the 2017 crash, there were no serious injuries.

Uber began testing autonomous vehicles in 2016 on San Francisco streets. The tests raised safety concerns after video showed a self-driving car running a red light within hours of the program beginning.

Eventually, the California Department of Motor Vehicles cracked down, which forced Uber to stop testing on California roads for several months.

The crash appears to be the first known death of a pedestrian struck by an autonomous vehicle on public roads, according to the Times.

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