STUTTGART -- Volkswagen AG will not change its plans to introduce fully autonomous Level 5 cars even after an Uber self-driving car hit and killed a woman crossing the street in Arizona.
VW has no reason to rethink its plans, CEO Matthias Mueller said. "We won't let ourselves be brought off course from our long-term strategy on the basis of a tragic event like this," Mueller told Automotive News Europe on Tuesday on the sidelines of the 2017 results press conference of the VW's majority shareholder Porsche Automobil Holding SE.
Mueller urged consumers not to jump to conclusions but to wait for the results of the investigation into the Uber accident. "There are indications that this accident was unavoidable," he said.
Mueller said the industry needed to redouble its efforts to ensure the technology was safe and socially accepted. He warned about the enormous complexity involved in the changeover to more automated driving.
VW Group plans to launch a number of fully autonomous Level 5 electric cars, vans and trucks in controlled environments, such as geo-fenced city districts starting as early as 2021.
Its Moia mobility division will launch a six-seat, electric minibus ride-hailing service in Hamburg this year. The minibuses will have drivers but could eventually be autonomous.
PSA no change
PSA said the Uber accident will not change its current self-driving tests. "Safety is always our highest priority," a spokeswoman said.
PSA has been testing autonomous vehicle technology on French roads since 2015, and last year began tests with "non-expert" drivers, though an engineer is in the passenger seat ready to take control if necessary.
Renault, which has been testing autonomous vehicles on closed courses in France, said it was not in a position to comment on other companies or hypothetical situations.
Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has promised to start a robotaxi service by 2022. The Renault EZ-GO concept at the Geneva auto show in March offered a look of what that service might look like.
Uber has suspended tests of autonomous cars after one of its test cars hit and killed a woman crossing the street in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, marking the first fatality involving an autonomous vehicle.
The crash involved an XC90 in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel. Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking her bicycle across a four-lane road on Sunday evening when she was struck by the Uber vehicle traveling at about 40 mph (65 kph), police said.
Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle that from viewing videos taken from the vehicle "it's very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway."
Peter Sigal in Paris and Reuters contributed to this report