TEMPE, Ariz./DETROIT (Reuters) - Arizona officials said on Tuesday they saw no immediate need to tighten rules on the testing of self-driving cars in the state in reaction to a fatal accident involving an Uber autonomous vehicle that has focused attention on the safety of the new technology.
Meanwhile, Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said it will pause autonomous vehicle testing following Sunday’s accident in which an Uber Technologies Inc self-driving SUV struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona.
Automakers and tech companies are evaluating whether or not to suspend their autonomous vehicle programs in the wake of the first fatality involving a self-driving vehicle. Uber said on Monday it was suspending its own program.
Toyota said it was temporarily pausing its testing on U.S. public roads to help its test drivers, who could be experiencing “an emotional effect” from the incident.
“This ‘timeout’ is meant to give them time to come to a sense of balance about the inherent risks of their jobs,” the automaker said in a statement.
Uber, along with other technology companies and automakers, has been testing in Arizona, which regulates autonomous vehicles with a lighter touch than neighboring states such as California.
The state has a long history of allowing automakers to test new vehicles on its wide, open roads, and a 2015 executive order by Governor Doug Ducey paved the way for companies to test autonomous technology without interference by the legislature. More than 600 self-driving vehicles are now testing on Arizona roads, according to the governor’s office.
On Tuesday, Arizona’s director for policy and communications at the state’s department of transportation, Kevin Biesty, said existing regulations were sufficient and that the state had no immediate plans to issue new rules.
“We believe we have enough in our laws right now to regulate automobiles,” Biesty told Reuters. “There will be issues that the legislature will have to address in the future as these become more widespread.”
During the early phase of self-driving vehicle testing, Arizona refrained from adding new restrictions on companies testing on state roads, Biesty said, adding they did not believe any new regulations would add to safety.
Biesty said his agency was waiting for federal safety regulators to conclude an investigation before drawing any conclusions. Arizona’s self-driving vehicle oversight committee has not planned any meetings or actions, he said.
Also on Tuesday, Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell issued a statement saying he supported Uber’s decision to suspend testing until the end of the investigation. His office said the mayor had not asked other autonomous vehicle companies to suspend testing in the city.
Full details are still forthcoming surrounding the death on Sunday night of pedestrian Elaine Herzberg after she was struck by Uber’s test vehicle, a Volvo SC 90