The crash is the first reported death caused by a vehicle intended to be fully self-driving. In May 2016, Joshua Brown was killed when his Tesla Model S crashed into a semi-truck while operating in Autopilot. The system is semiautonomous, and an NTSB investigation found that Brown was using the technology outside of its capabilities.
Though Herzberg was not in the crosswalk at the time of the crash, self-driving safety advocates say her position should not put her at fault.
"'Crossing outside of the sidewalk' was never a valid excuse for traffic deaths, and it provides no cover for autonomous mobility companies," Janette Sadik-Khan, former New York City Department of Transportation commissioner and a transportation consultant, tweeted.
The crash will likely affect all manufacturers developing autonomous vehicle technology, and the results of the investigation could influence consumer acceptance, experts say.
"This has the potential to severely impact public perceptions of autonomous technology, and should be handled with utmost prudence by regulators, authorities, and the industry alike,” said Akshay Anand, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book, in an email.
Further fatalities or an inadequate response to Sunday's accident could deal a crushing blow to years of autonomous vehicle development.
"If we have more tragedies like the one we saw in Arizona, the public is going to recoil from this technology and are not going to get in these cars, and any safety benefits that could be realized will be lost," said Peter Kurdock, director of regulatory affairs at the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "Certain segments of the industry that have placed rush to market over making sure these things are safe."
The crash also comes as Congress considers a bill that would allow manufacturers to deploy tens of thousands of autonomous vehicles without meeting certain federal safety requirements. The legislation is currently pending as five Democratic senators have placed a hold on it.
"This tragic accident underscores why we need to be exceptionally cautious when testing and deploying autonomous vehicle technologies on public roads," said U.S. Sen. Edward Markey D-Mass., one of the legislators blocking the bill, in a statement. “If these technologies are to reap their purported safety, efficiency, and environmental benefits, we must have robust safety, cybersecurity, and privacy rules in place before these vehicles are traveling our roadways to prevent such tragedies from occurring."
Volvo Cars, which supplies XC90 crossovers to Uber and has been working with the company on integrating the technology into the vehicles, said in a statement that it was notified of the crash.
“We are aware of this incident and our thoughts are with the family of the woman involved,” said a Volvo spokesman. “We are aware that Uber is cooperating with local authorities in their investigation.”