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Self-driving vehicle testing continues at UW after pedestrian death

Last Updated Mar 25, 2018 at 8:16 am EST

Uber says it has suspended all of its self-driving testing including operations in Toronto following a fatal pedestrian accident involving the vehicles in the Arizona. In this undated photo provided by Uber, a Ford Fusion hybrid outfitted with radars, laser scanners and high-resolution cameras drives along the streets of Pittsburgh. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, Uber, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

The automotive research team at the University of Waterloo thinks stricter regulations will result from the autonomous car industry’s first recorded pedestrian death.

A woman was struck and killed by a self-driving Uber vehicle in Arizona last week.

Ross McKenzie is managing director of the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research (WatCAR). He says research needs to focus more intensely on the random, unpredictable behaviour of other vehicles and pedestrians, before driverless technology is ready to take to the roads in a safe way.

“The challenges that we have are the conservative nature by which autonomous vehicles operate in a real-world environment,” says McKenzie.

WatCAR will continue testing its fleet on a closed track — to date, only one public road test has been completed in Waterloo. Though it will have broad implications on UW’s own research, McKenzie thinks the fatality will put safety back in the driver’s seat for car makers and researchers.

“[Autonomous vehicles] don’t exceed the speed limit. They don’t look down from the road to find their coffee cup in the centre console,” he says. “The whole premise under which we’re pursuing autonomous driving is to make vehicles safer than ones that are on the road now driven by humans.”