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Arizona bans Uber's self-driving cars after fatal crash

The suspension of the ride-hailing service's ability to test autonomous vehicles comes after a fatal accident involving a pedestrian.

NTSB investigators examine Uber vehicle involved in a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators examine the Uber vehicle involved in a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona, earlier this month.

National Transportation Safety Board

The governor of Arizona on Monday said he's suspending Uber's ability to test self-driving cars on the state's roads following a fatal accident involving a pedestrian earlier this month.

Doug Ducey said in a letter to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi that he found video of the deadly collision "disturbing and alarming" and that he had directed the state's department of transportation to suspend the company's ability to test the cars.

"Improving public safety has always been the emphasis of Arizona's approach to autonomous vehicle testing, and my expectation is that public safety is also the top priority for all who operate this technology in the state of Arizona," Ducey said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Arizona Republic. "The incident that took place on March 18 is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation."

Uber's self-driving vehicle testing program has come under intense scrutiny since an accident in Tempe, Arizona, on March 18 resulted in the first fatality of a pedestrian from a car in full autonomous mode. Video of the incident released by Tempe police shows 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg walking her bike loaded with bags across a dark road.

The video, which stops at the moment of impact, also shows the vehicle operator, Rafaela Vasquez, sitting at the wheel constantly glancing down at her lap. She looks up just as the car collides with Herzberg, who was pronounced dead by the time she reached the hospital.

Uber said last week it had temporarily halted its self-driving operations in all cities where it's been testing its vehicles, including Tempe, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

"We proactively suspended self-driving operations in all cities immediately following the tragic incident last week," Uber said in a statement Monday. "We continue to help investigators in any way we can, and we'll keep a dialogue open with the Governor's office going forward."

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The Tempe police are working with Uber representatives, the National Transportation Safety Board and the US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in their investigation to determine who, or what, was at fault for the accident.

Initially, Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir said it would've been difficult to avoid Herzberg because she was emerging from the shadows, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Tempe police later released a statement walking back those initial assertions and said it has yet to pinpoint responsibility for the collision.

CNET's Dara Kerr contributed to this report.

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