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Arizona, Tempe Sued in Case Involving Pedestrian Death and Self-Driving Uber Vehicle

— March 20, 2019

The family of a pedestrian struck and killed by a self-driving Uber vehicle last year recently filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona and city of Tempe.

The state of Arizona and the city of Tempe were recently named in a lawsuit over allegations of negligence in a fatal crash involving a pedestrian and a self-driving Uber vehicle nearly a year ago. The suit was filed on Monday in Superior Court in Phoenix by the pedestrian’s husband and adult daughter, Christine Wood and Rolf Erich Ziemann. In their suit, Wood and Ziemann argue the “state and Tempe created unsafe conditions that contributed to Elaine Herzberg’s death.”

City of Tempe, Arizona
City of Tempe, Arizona; image courtesy of Nick via Wikimedia Commons,

The incident occurred back on March 18, 2018, Elaine Herzberg, 49, was struck and killed by an “autonomously operating Volvo owned by Uber, which had disabled the vehicles’ emergency-braking to smooth the ride.”

Prior to filing their lawsuit, Wood and Zieman sent notices to state and city officials saying their complaint could be “settled for $10 million from each of the government bodies.” The state and city didn’t respond, which led to the recent lawsuit being filed. Now, the father and daughter are “seeking damages in an amount to be determined by a jury.

The suit states:

“The state of Arizona allowed Uber Technologies Inc. and others to conduct experiments with driverless automobile technology on Arizona roadways and on Arizona citizens, including Elaine Herzberg…This lawsuit does not challenge those decisions. Instead, this lawsuit challenges what plaintiffs and their counsel believe is the careless and imprudent manner in which state transportation authorities allowed this experimental technology to be used on Arizona roadways and citizens.”

Additionally, the lawsuit, which was filed by The Leader Law Firm of Tucson with Skousen, Gulbrandsen and Patience of Mesa as co-counsel, claims its “unclear if either the state departments of Transportation or Public Safety took any steps to review driverless car technology, policies, driver background checks or other information to ensure it did not present a danger to the public.” It further states:

“The state and city have failed to make roadways safe, allowing autonomous vehicles to operate on public roadways in an unsafe manner. The state negligently conducted or performed oversight over this program.”

An executive order signed by Governor Ducey in 2015 allowed self-driving cars in the state and city in the first place, as long as companies register with the state. As a result, the lawsuit states, “Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order was negligently implemented without sufficient investigation into the safety of Uber Technologies Inc.’s autonomous vehicles.”

So far, Gov. Ducey and other state and city officials have yet to respond to requests for comment.


Family of woman killed in crash with self-driving Uber sues Arizona, Tempe

Arizona, Tempe sued by family of woman killed by self-driving Uber vehicle

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