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Woman struck and killed by self-driving Uber vehicle

Felicia Fonseca
Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – A self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in a Phoenix suburb in the first fatality involving a fully autonomous test vehicle, prompting the ride-hailing company Monday to suspend all road-testing of such autos in the U.S. and Canada.

FILE - In this March 1, 2017 file photo, people enter the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. Uber suspended all of its self-driving testing Monday, March 19, 2018, after what is believed to be the first fatal pedestrian crash involving the vehicles. The testing has been going on for months in the Phoenix area, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto as automakers and technology companies compete to be the first with the technology. Uber's testing was halted after police in a Phoenix suburb said one of its self-driving vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian overnight Sunday. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Depending on who is found to be at fault, the accident could have far-reaching consequences for the development of self-driving vehicles, which have been billed as potentially safer than human drivers.

The Volvo was in self-driving mode with a human operator behind the wheel when a woman walking outside a crosswalk in Tempe on Sunday night was hit, police said. The woman, identified as Elaine Herzberg, 49, died at a hospital.

Uber suspended all of its self-driving vehicle testing in the Phoenix area, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

The testing has been going on for months as automakers and technology companies compete to be the first with the technology.

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Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed condolences on his Twitter account and said the company is working with local law enforcement on the investigation.

The federal government has voluntary guidelines for companies that want to test autonomous vehicles, leaving much of the regulation up to states.

Cars go by the scene Monday, March 19, 2018, near where a pedestrian was stuck by an Uber vehicle in autonomous mode late Sunday night in Tempe, Ariz. The vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel when a woman walking outside of a crosswalk was hit. Uber suspended all of its self-driving testing Monday after what is believed to be the first fatal pedestrian crash involving the vehicles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

But Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao also has said technology and automobile companies need to allay public fears of self-driving vehicles, citing a poll showing that 78 percent of people fear riding in autonomous vehicles

The number of states considering legislation related to autonomous vehicles gradually has increased each year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2017 alone, 33 states introduced legislation.

California is among those that require manufacturers to report any incidents to the motor vehicle department during the testing phase. As of early March, the agency received 59 such reports.