Senators demand answers on self-driving car loophole after Uber death

Senators are speaking out on the controversial practice of forced arbitration in the wake of a ...

Posted: Mar 23, 2018 11:07 PM
Updated: Mar 23, 2018 11:07 PM

Senators are speaking out on the controversial practice of forced arbitration in the wake of a self-driving Uber killing a pedestrian.

On Sunday, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was walking her bicycle across a road in Tempe, Arizona, when a self-driving Uber struck and killed her.

In a letter sent Thursday to 60 manufacturers of self-driving technology, including Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, 10 Democratic Senators noted a "potentially glaring omission" in the AV Start Act, a Senate bill under consideration. If passed, the bill will pave the way for broad deployment of self-driving cars on US roads.

Consumer advocates warned this month that the bill fails to prohibit forced arbitration clauses in terms of service agreements between autonomous vehicles manufacturers and the consumers that ride in them. The omission would benefit big tech and car companies at the expense of average Americans, the advocates say.

A person injured while riding in a fully autonomous vehicle would not be able to take part in a class action lawsuit or sue the maker of the technology.

When arbitration is an injured passenger's path for recourse, the balance of power shifts toward businesses. Companies generally hire the arbitrator and will be its repeat client, according to experts.

Related: Loophole would protect self-driving car companies from lawsuits

In the letter, the Senators ask the companies if they will be requiring passengers in self-driving cars to agree to forced arbitration. Uber customers riding in its human-driven vehicles already agree to an arbitration clause in the company's terms of service.

The Senators express concern about ensuring Americans are not deprived of their rights when injury or death occurs.

The letter was signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal, Patrick Leahy, Christopher Coons, Edward Markey, Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Durbin, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, Mazie Hirono and Catherine Cortez Masto.

Senators had raised concerns about the AV Start Act before. But the letter is the first time the issue of forced arbitration regarding self-driving cars has been publicly addressed.

Congress has been generally receptive to companies developing self-driving cars. In September, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Self Drive Act, a bill designed to pave the way for mass adoption of self-driving cars.

But Uber's recent crash has spurred further scrutiny of the self-driving vehicle industry. An industry that views its largest selling point as its potential to improve public safety now faces questions over whether its technology is actually safe.

Earlier this week, Boston's government asked self-driving companies operating in the city to halt operations while safety procedures are reviewed.

Related: Experts say crash video show failure to protect pedestrians

Self-driving technology today remains imperfect and in development. Most companies continue to have humans behind the wheel of test vehicles to intervene if the self-driving software fails.

In the Tempe crash, a video released by local police Wednesday showed that the test driver was distracted and not watching the road at the time. But experts told CNN that the video appears to show the failure of the expected performance of the autonomous vehicle's technology.

The local police department is conducting an ongoing investigation.

Lafayette
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 18°
Kokomo
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 14°
Rensselaer
Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 13°
Lafayette
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 18°
Danville
Mostly Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 27°
Frankfort
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 16°
Frankfort
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 16°
Monticello
Cloudy
22° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 15°
Monticello
Cloudy
22° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 15°
Logansport
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 25°
Some snow Wednesday to Wednesday night.....
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 614946

Reported Deaths: 9807
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion849231342
Lake45784693
Allen33103560
Hamilton29752316
St. Joseph27572383
Elkhart24496346
Vanderburgh19679255
Tippecanoe18150144
Johnson15234296
Porter14970172
Hendricks14550253
Madison11071223
Clark10852145
Vigo10819185
Monroe9496115
Delaware9193136
LaPorte9173164
Howard8325148
Kosciusko811485
Warrick683399
Hancock6783106
Bartholomew6659100
Floyd6522113
Wayne6194164
Grant6050118
Dubois559081
Boone557968
Morgan551996
Henry512365
Marshall507884
Dearborn488745
Cass487864
Noble476159
Jackson428747
Shelby423381
Lawrence395180
Clinton375845
Gibson375560
Harrison354046
DeKalb351365
Montgomery349754
Knox337839
Miami325244
Steuben315846
Whitley313126
Wabash306951
Adams303636
Ripley301646
Putnam299152
Huntington295760
Jasper293035
White275943
Daviess271776
Jefferson267738
Decatur249983
Fayette249949
Greene242763
Posey241828
Wells237551
LaGrange230363
Scott227939
Clay225032
Randolph215848
Jennings200937
Spencer193622
Sullivan193633
Washington189023
Fountain185227
Starke177044
Jay168723
Owen168338
Fulton165430
Orange161035
Carroll160616
Rush156418
Perry156129
Vermillion150034
Franklin149933
Tipton134433
Parke13098
Pike118826
Blackford112023
Pulaski97937
Newton92621
Brown88835
Benton87110
Crawford8099
Martin75013
Warren6867
Switzerland6695
Union6297
Ohio4967
Unassigned0375

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events