The tragic collision between an autonomous Uber taxi and a pedestrian in Phoenix, Arizona, has served as a reminder of how close we are to a world of pilotless mobility. The fatal accident — the second in two years of trial runs of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles in several US states — has underscored the risks inherent in many new technologies. Uber has on this occasion been duly sensitive. It has conveyed sympathy to the victim’s family and suspended all testing of its driverless vehicle fleet while investigations into the cause of the accident are pursued. Why did the taxi and its software fail to spot and avoid the pedestrian? When it did fail, why did the "safety-driver" behind the wheel, not intervene to prevent the tragedy? Tech companies, car makers and start-ups investing billions in developing automated computer systems to replace human drivers may have hoped their technology would be further along the line, but at an awkwardly early stage it now raises issues abou...

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