IN AMERICA, 2018 was supposed to be a very big year for self-driving cars. Uber quietly prepped to launch a robo-taxi service. Waymo said riders would be able to catch a driverless ride by year’s end. General Motors’ Cruise said it would start testing in New York City, the country’s traffic chaos capital. Congress was poised to pass legislation that would set broad outlines for federal regulation of the tech.
Instead, one year ago today, an Uber self-driving SUV testing in Arizona struck and killed a woman named Elaine Herzberg as she was crossing the street. The crash derailed much of the optimism surrounding the advent of autonomy, underscoring its potential to do harm. And it ushered in a year during which the greatest promise of the technology—a drastic drop in road deaths—could feel farther away than ever.