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That Monday's accident was the first fatal incident involving a fully autonomous vehicle indicates that arguments for their safety have merit, but much of that testing has occurred on highways, which are easier for self-driving cars to navigate than dense, urban environments.

Pictured, Mesa, Arizona woman, Elaine Herzberg who was killed the result of a self driving Uber SUV vehicle.

The death of a woman in Arizona struck by a self-driving auto with no human control, the first fatality involving a fully autonomous vehicle, is an event the nascent industry has long dreaded and comes at a sensitive time. No passengers were inside.

The greater Phoenix area, including Tempe and Chandler, Arizona, plays host to autonomous test cars from Uber, Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo, Intel Corp. and General Motors Co.

The death of a pedestrian at the hands of a self-driving auto will no doubt cause some backlash, but even with a fatality now on the record books, supporters will argue that autonomous vehicles are not statistically more risky than human drivers. However, the modified cars have sensors created to detect pedestrians and cyclists and are supposed to react accordingly.

Last year, a Volvo XC90 from Uber was hit by the driver of another vehicle. At the time Uber was operating without regulatory approval and was forced to park its cars. "We're thinking of the victim's family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened", his post read.

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Uber has suspended all trials of self-driving cars in light of the incident.

Two safety drivers were in the Uber, which was in self-driving mode.

California plans to issue permits starting on April 2 approving fully driverless testing of autonomous vehicles on state roads.

Police in Tempe, where Uber has been testing its fleet since February previous year, say there is an "active investigation" ongoing with which Uber is cooperating.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation said it is reviewing the Tempe incident.

A vehicle operator in the driver's seat was the only person in the Uber auto when the fatal accident occurred, according to the company. The Uber was in self-driving mode when it was hit by another driver in an intersection after the vehicle failed to yield. Although consumers have placed high levels of trust into self-driving technologies, this event could be a major setback to acceptance of autonomous vehicles.


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