Uber driver involved in the self-driving crash was streaming a TV show just before crash


Uber driver involved in the self-driving crash was streaming a TV show just before crash

Uber driver involved in the self-driving crash was streaming a TV show just before crash

According to a police report, the Uber driver involved in the self-driving crash was streaming a TV show just before the vehicle crashed.

The Police report showed that the crash was "deemed entirely avoidable" if the driver had been paying attention and the driver could face charges of vehicular manslaughter if convicted. The Uber car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash.

Police in Tempe, Arizona said that the driver behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber car became distracted while watching television her phone right up until about the time of a fatal accident in March. The evidence gathered around the crash has deemed the fatal event as "entirely avoidable."

The 318-page report from the Tempe Police Department Report on the crash was released in response to a public records request.

The female driver, Rafaela Vasquez, repeatedly looked down and did not look at the road the way she should have done but only glancing up just a half second before the car hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing the street at night.

As a result of this tragic event and total disregard for the safety of other road users and pedestrians, Vasquez is facing charges of vehicular manslaughter as she had not been paying attention.

Police obtained records from the online streaming service Hulu which showed Vasquez's account was playing the television talent show "The Voice" the night of the crash for about 42 minutes, ending at 9:59 p.m., which "coincides with the approximate time of the collision," the report says.

It is not clear at the moment if Vasquez will be charged, but the Tempe police have submitted their findings to county prosecutors, who will make the determination. The Uber car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, but Uber, like other self-driving car developers, requires a backup driver in the car to intervene when the autonomous system fails or a tricky driving situation occurs.

Vasquez looked up just 0.5 seconds before the crash, after keeping her head down for 5.3 seconds, the Tempe Police report said. Uber's self-driving Volvo SUV was travelling at just under 44 miles-per-hour.

As a result of the crash, Uber is undergoing a "top-to-bottom safety review," and had brought on a former federal transportation official to help improve the company's safety culture. The company prohibits the use of any mobile device by safety drivers while the self-driving cars are on a public road, and drivers are told they can be fired for violating this rule. Not only is this driver fired but she is facing

When the Police reviewed the video from inside the car it showed that Vasquez was looking down during the trip, and her face "appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down." The report found that Vasquez "was distracted and looking down" for close to seven of the nearly 22 minutes prior to the collision.

Tempe Police Detective Michael McCormick said in an email to the streaming company Hulu, that "this is a very serious case where the charges of vehicular manslaughter may be charged, so correctly interpreting the information provided to us is crucial." As a result of the email request, Hulu turned over the records on May 31.

In response to the charges, Vasquez told federal investigators that she had been monitoring the self-driving interface in the car and that neither her personal nor her business phones were in use until after the crash. That report showed Uber had disabled the emergency braking system in the Volvo, and Vasquez began braking less than a second after hitting Herzberg.

Herzberg, who was homeless, was walking her bicycle across the street, outside of a crosswalk on a four-lane road, the night of March 18 when she was struck by the front right side of the Volvo.

The police report also faulted the accident victim, Herzberg for "unlawfully crossing the road at a location other than a marked crosswalk." In addition to the statements in the report on the crash, the police released a lot of audio files of 911 calls made by Vasquez, who waited at the scene for police, and bystanders the night of the crash. The report also contained photographs of Herzberg's damaged bicycle and the Uber car; and videos from police officers' body cameras that capture the minutes after the crash, including harrowing screams in the background.

The crash has dealt a severe blow, not only to Uber but to all self-drive innovators around the world who are learning from the tragic mistakes made by the backup driver. It has been a major setback in its efforts to develop self-driving cars. Uber says it plans to begin testing elsewhere this summer, although in some cities it will have to first win over increasingly wary regulators.