To the surprise of…no one. Toyota has officially suspended its United States testing of autonomous driving vehicles in light of the tragedy this past weekend which saw a pedestrian in the Phoenix, Arizona area get struck and killed by a self driving Uber vehicle.
With the first recorded pedestrian death as the direct result of an autonomous vehicle, the company was ordered by the Toyota Research Institute, which is the company’s Silicon Valley research arm, and no date for when they would, or could resume testing was mentioned. The company added that they are waiting to know exactly what happened in Phoenix before making any decisions on when to ramp up its public road testing again. The company was quick to note that it wasn’t pulling its program because of any technological issues, but more so out of respect and to give its staff time to reflect on how important safety is as it relates to the autonomous driving programs.
The company has been doing public road testing in both California and Michigan but refused to disclose exactly how many autonomous vehicles are actually currently on the roads in the US. Like most other auto manufacturers and technology companies, like Google, Oracle, Intel, Aphabet, Waymo and Uber, they steadfastly believe that self driving and autonomous vehicles will lead to a greatly reduced amount of these type of accidents in the future.
Other manufacturers such as Honda and Nissan were quick to point out that they all adhere to the strictest of safety policies when it comes to their respective autonomous driving initiatives. What is of course certain is that the incident in Phoenix will become a lightning rod for the debate that is currently raging in the US around the upcoming legislations and how fast, or slow, new laws for autonomous cars should be implemented. The current Presidential entourage has been pressing for quicker changes to both national and state legislation in dealing with the wave of self driving vehicles and will however push to make sure that occupant and pedestrian safety is at the forefront of any discussion.