Carmaker giant, Toyota has announced that it has suspended its U.S tests for driverless cars on all public roads. The move is in response to a deadly accident which took place in Arizona and involved one of the self-driving cars belonging to Uber. Toyota said it was taking a step back because it is concerned about the emotional impact that the accident might have caused on its test drivers.
The company suspended the testing operations indefinitely saying it doesn’t have any specific timelines on when it will resume the testing. This accident has reignited a debate on whether self-driving vehicles are being launched and used prematurely.
Many industry analysts argue that this technology can help expand transportation options for the elderly and disabled as well as reduce on the number of accidents. Some analysts have however warned that this technology is being rolled out prematurely and have urged industry and transport regulators to come up with strict and stringent safety tests.
In a tweet following the Arizona accident, Missy Cummings, who is an engineering professor at Duke University, urged the U.S Congress to take necessary steps to stop the premature launch of the new technology. According to a survey conducted last year by Pew Research Center, over half of America’s population doesn’t want to ride in the driverless vehicle if there is another alternative. Many expressed a lot of worry and safety concerns about the driverless vehicles.
The accident which occurred in Temple, Arizona is said to be the first deadly that involve a fully driverless and autonomous vehicle. Federal officials and the police have launched investigations into unearthing the details of the accident. The accident which involved an Uber car running in autonomous mode claimed the life of one 49-year old woman. The car has a human monitor behind the wheel. In a statement, Temple police said they had reviewed the video from the accident and are yet to establish the fault. Uber has since announced that it will temporarily terminate driverless car testing following the accident.
Toyota has also been carrying out test of its Chauffeur mode on many public roads in California and Michigan. The company recently announced that it expects some of its vehicles to be equipped with driverless driving technology by 2020. A spokesman from the company has however said that owing to the impact that the accident may have had on its test drivers, the company is putting a pause on its entire driverless car testing exercise. He however said that the company will carry on with the testing in other countries.