Sunday night’s fatal crash in Arizona involving an autonomous Uber SUV is the latest setback for the company in its bid to go public in 2019 and recover from earlier scandals.
Authorities said that Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking outside of a crosswalk when she was hit by the self-driving Uber vehicle moving at a speed of 40 mph just before 10 p.m. The woman was taken to the hospital where she later died, police said.
It is believed that a fatal incident involving a self-driving car is the first of its kind in the world and the company could even face charges thanks to new rules adopted by the state of Arizona.
Earlier this month, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order that makes companies operating autonomous vehicles responsible for anything that happens on the road, including in the event of murder. Under new rules, the company could be held criminally liable just like a person would.
All this could be a problem for Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who succeeded embattled founder Travis Kalanick in August 2017 and wishes to see Uber’s IPO in 2019 and recover from previous scandals.
“We have all of the disadvantages of being a public company, as far as the spotlight on us, without any of the advantages of being a public company,” Khosrowshahi told the audience at the New York Times DealBook Conference in Manhattan last year.
And there are more than plenty of scandals.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice reportedly opened a criminal probe into Uber and its use of a software that helped its drivers to evade local transportation regulators.
The company admitted the use of technology and banned it after negative media reports. The company claimed the software’s aim was to prevent fraud and protect the drivers.
The Justice Department is also considering multiple other criminal probes into Uber’s dealings, Bloomberg reported. Authorities are reportedly asking questions whether the ride-hailing app violated price-transparency and other laws.
Last month, Uber settled for $245 million after Alphabet Inc. sued the company for stealing trade secrets of its self-driving vehicle technology.
In addition to that, the company is still reeling from Kalanick’s controversial tenure at the company, who inspired ferocious competition against competitors and the culture of rule-breaking.
The backlash against Uber goes beyond the United States.
In Britain, the app was accused by police of letting drivers who sexually assault passengers to remain on the books. In one particular instance cited by the authorities, a driver was allowed to continue driving for Uber despite an allegation of sexual assault – leading to another sex attack on a woman in the car.
In 2014, a 26-year-old passenger was kidnapped and violently raped in India by an Uber driver. Kalanick and Eric Alexander, who served at the time as Uber’s president for Asia-Pacific, said that the rape had been planted by a rival company to hit their reputation, according to Bloomberg.
The victim sued the company in the U.S. and won in 2015 – but was forced to sue the company again after Alexander went on to obtain her confidential medical document. Uber settled with the woman last year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.