SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A woman crossing a street was killed by an Uber self-driving sport utility vehicle in Arizona, police said on Monday, leading the ride services company to suspend its autonomous vehicle program across the United States and Canada.
The accident in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe marked the first fatality from a self-driving vehicle, which are being tested around the globe, and could derail efforts to fast-track the introduction of the new technology.
The vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel at the time of the accident, which occurred overnight Sunday to Monday, Tempe police said.
“The vehicle was traveling northbound ... when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle,” police said in a statement.
The woman later died from her injuries in a hospital, police said. Her name has not been released because her next of kin had not yet been notified, police said.
Tempe police could not immediately be reached for further comment. The city is 11 miles (18 km) east of Phoenix.
The vehicle involved in the accident was a Volvo, a person familiar with the matter said. Local television footage of the scene showed a crumpled bike and a Volvo XC90 SUV with a smashed-in front.
An Uber Technologies Inc spokesman said the company was suspending North American tests of its self-driving vehicles. In a tweet, Uber expressed its condolences and said the San Francisco company was fully cooperating with authorities.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said they were sending investigative teams to probe the crash. NHTSA also said it was in contact with Volvo. The Swedish car brand is owned by China’s Geely.
In Canada, the Ministry of Transportation in Canada’s Ontario province, which is overseeing Uber’s on-road autonomous testing in Toronto, said it was reviewing the accident.
“We will be following the situation in Arizona closely, and will consider what measures are appropriate as more becomes known,” said ministry spokesman Bob Nichols.
On Friday, Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit Waymo and Uber urged Congress to pass sweeping legislation to speed the introduction of self-driving cars into the United States. The legislation has been blocked over safety concerns by some congressional Democrats, and Monday’s fatality could hamper the quick passage of the bill, congressional aides said Monday.
Fallout from the crash “will likely prove negative for all auto makers and suppliers with aspirations in autonomous driving,” Buckingham Research Group analyst Glenn Chin wrote in a client note. “A human fatality is likely to spur increased public