Since the concept of driverless cars first became a serious prospect, a lot of attention has been given to the possibility of their malfunction—if an autonomous vehicle damages property or even harms a human, who is at fault? And, given a worst-case scenario, how should a vehicle's software choose between whose lives it prioritizes, the passenger or the pedestrian? This last question even became the basis for the Moral Machine, an online platform created by the MIT Media Lab that essentially crowdsources public opinion on different variations of the classic trolley problem thought experiment.
However, all of these questions had been considered largely theoretical until last night when, as The New York Times reports, a woman was struck and killed by an autonomous vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. As a major component of many predictions of futuristic "smart cities," the development and testing of autonomous vehicles hold huge implications for urbanism (ArchDaily has previously covered predictions of major change by car manufacturers and researchers) meaning that this fatal event could have a ripple effect on the development of cities.