A self-driving Uber car killed a pedestrian in Arizona on Sunday evening. It was in self-driving mode, occurred around 10 p.m. and there was a vehicle operator in the front seat. In an emailed statement an Uber spokesperson wrote, “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with authorities in their investigation of this incident.” This is a tragedy for the person and her family. It could also bring to the forefront an issue that everyone in the self-driving industry knew it would eventually have to address.
Tesla is one of the most “exposed” companies to the self-driving initiative, and it has been vocal about providing Level 5 autonomous driving or completely hands free under all conditions (see chart below). At the SXSW conference just over a week ago Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, said, “I think in the next year, self-driving will encompass essentially all modes of driving.” He added that they would make roads safer adding, “At least, a hundred to two hundred percent safer than a person [a human driver] by the end of next year. We’re talking maybe 18 months from now,” Tesla’s current autonomous driving system, or Autopilot 2.0, will be “at least 2 or 3 times better” than a human driver, Musk concluded. While it wasn’t a Tesla vehicle involved with the accident, it could impact it and other automobile companies.
Musk’s comments significantly helped the shares
He made these comments on Sunday, March 11. Tesla’s stock increased by almost $20 or over 5% going from the closing price of $327.17 on Friday, March 9, to close on Monday, March 12, at $345.51. This compares to the NASDAQ that rose 0.4% last Monday.
Tesla has lost all of last Monday’s gain and then some. Over the past week its shares have fallen 9.2% to $313.56, while the NASDAQ has dropped 3.2%. However, it was only down a bit more than the NASDAQ today, 2.4% vs. 1.8%, the first day of trading after the accident.