Arizona was a hotbed of testing before Uber crash

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Bloomberg

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The technology behind autonomous vehicles has originated from coders in Silicon Valley, engineers in Detroit and academic researchers in Pittsburgh. Much of it eventually lands on the streets of Arizona, a state that’s done more than any other to welcome tests of unproven self-driving software to public roads.

The death this week of a 49-year-old woman in Tempe, after she was struck by a self-driving Uber Technologies Inc. SUV, highlights the risk of the state’s laissez-faire approach to the emerging technology. Developers flocked to the desert state in response to policies that were designed to encourage testing and minimize red tape. That approach has come under scrutiny after what’s likely the first pedestrian death linked to an autonomous vehicle.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order in 2015 to allow self-driving vehicles to operate without a human backup driver behind the wheel. It was a calculated move to make the state a hub for self-driving tests. California further cracked open a window of opportunity the following year, when its Department of Motor Vehicles shut down an Uber pilot program in San Francisco, insisting that the company register its driverless cars and pay a fee. Ducey, a Republican, implored Uber to relocate.

“While California puts the brakes on innovation and change with more bureaucracy and more regulation, Arizona is paving the way for new technology and new businesses,” Ducey said in December 2016. “California may not want you, but we do.” He took his sales pitch to Twitter, too.