The fatal accident involving an autonomous vehicle operated by the ride-hailing service Uber has prompted one automaker to temporarily halt its testing of self-driving cars on public roads.
The accident on Sunday night in Tempe, Ariz., prompted Uber to halt its tests on the streets of four cities: Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. On Tuesday, Toyota Motor said that it, too, was suspending its tests of autonomous vehicles on public roads near its research center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and in the San Francisco area.
Toyota has a fleet of test vehicles that can drive themselves, although engineers and safety drivers ride along to take control if necessary — the same arrangement that was used in the Uber vehicle that fatally struck a pedestrian in Tempe.
“We’ve told our drivers to take a couple of days off so we can assess the situation,” said Rick Bourgoise, a Toyota spokesman.
The company is continuing to test autonomous vehicles at three enclosed proving grounds — two in Ann Arbor that are affiliated with the University of Michigan, and another known as GoMentum Station, a former naval weapons station in Concord, Calif.
Two other carmakers, Ford Motor and General Motors, are still performing tests of their self-driving cars on public roads. Waymo, the autonomous vehicle division of Google’s parent company Alphabet, and Lyft, Uber’s chief rival in the ride-hailing sector, declined to comment on the status of their testing programs on Tuesday.
Those companies are racing to put autonomous vehicles into commercial ride and delivery fleets within a few years. G.M. aims to start a ride-hailing service by the end of 2019 using a car it has developed, called the Cruise AV, that has no steering wheel or pedals. Ford hopes to have a similar vehicle in mass production by 2021.
After the Tempe accident, G.M. said Tuesday, “our plans to commercially launch in dense urban environments in 2019 remain unchanged but, as we’ve said from the start, we will not launch until we are satisfied that it is safe to do so.”
The accident in Tempe involved a Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicle that Uber had outfitted with radar, cameras and other sensors and computer gear that enable it to navigate without input from a driver. Although a safety driver was in the vehicle at the time, it was in autonomous mode when it struck and killed Elaine Herzberg, 49, on Sunday night.
Ms. Herzberg was walking with her bicycle when she was hit. The Volvo was traveling at about 40 miles per hour. The car did not appear to slow before the impact, according to the Tempe police.
It is believed to be first pedestrian death associated with a self-driving car.
The Tempe police said Tuesday that the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board was still underway, including the gathering of electronic data from the car and video from a camera that was mounted on its dashboard. The police reiterated that it had not yet been determined whether any party was at fault.
Over the past year, a number of companies have built up fleets of autonomous vehicles and begun testing them on public roads — many of them in Arizona, where officials have welcomed self-driving cars. One start-up has taken to a large retirement community — which is private property — to test, while some companies have also turned to virtual reality testing to teach their vehicles how to behave.
At the same time, some universities and state and local governments have been working to create realistic proving grounds where companies can work on self-driving cars without interacting with the public.
“Obviously this is a real tragedy, and it will take time to know what happened,” said Carrie Morton, deputy director of MCity, a 32-acre center operated in Ann Arbor by the University of Michigan. It features simulated city streets and intersections, with traffic lights, road signs, parking meters, a railroad crossing and a tunnel. More than 60 companies have become partners in the project.
“We firmly believe a combination of on-road testing, enclosed facilities like MCity, and computer simulation will be required to develop autonomous technology,” Ms. Morton said.
The University of Michigan is also helping to develop a larger site about 10 miles away in Ypsilanti, where the American Center of Mobility covers 335 acres at a World War II-era bomber plant. It includes highway ramps, overpasses and bridges that allow automakers to test self-driving cars at high speeds and in more complex environments than at MCity.
MCity and the American Center for Mobility are near technical centers operated by several companies, including G.M., Ford, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai and Waymo.
GoMentum Stations is the largest such center, covering 2,100 acres. It has about 20 miles of paved roads and a cluster of barracks and buildings that provide an urban environment.
Daisuke Wakabayashi contributed reporting.