A pedestrian death is tragic, but it shouldn't stop the development of the driverless car

The death of a pedestrian in Arizona who was struck by a driverless car is a tragedy. But unless the evidence shows some insurmountable flaw in the concept of autonomous vehicles, it’s not a reason to stop developing them.

If one death were enough to halt innovation, we would still be in horse-drawn carriages. It’s understandable that this death is generating attention, but we should keep it in perspective. About 6,000 pedestrians are killed in traffic every year, most of them by vehicles driven by human beings. On the same day that the pedestrian in Arizona died, there were likely a dozen or more other pedestrian fatalities that didn’t get international attention.

Obviously, the number of driverless cars on the roads is much smaller, but we’re still a long way from concluding that computers are more dangerous drivers than people. If thousands of pedestrian deaths each year aren’t enough to stop us from letting people drive, then we shouldn’t let one tragic incident change the course of innovative new technology that in the long run will almost certainly save more lives than it costs.

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