Uber Test Driver Was Watching "The Voice" When Self-Driving Car Crashed

Uber Test Driver Was Watching

Uber Test Driver Was Watching "The Voice" When Self-Driving Car Crashed

The driver behind the wheel of an autonomous Uber vehicle that fatally struck a woman in Tempe in March was watching "The Voice" via a streaming service in the minutes leading up to the crash, a police report says.

Included in a massive Tempe Police Department report this week were details about the March 18 fatal crash.

According to the spreadsheet of watch data from Hulu, Vasquez was streaming television episodes for approximately three hours the night of the crash.

Vasquez was looking away from the road for long stretches in the time before the crash, according to an internal video showing her that was released by police.

A 318-page report from the Tempe Police Department, released late on Thursday in response to a public records request, said that the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, repeatedly looked down and not at the road, glancing up just a half-second before the vehicle hit Elaine Herzberg, 49, who was crossing the street at night.

Herzberg walked across the road outside of a crosswalk. The case has been submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney's office for review against Vasquez, who could face charges of vehicular manslaughter. Police said the crash was "deemed entirely avoidable" if Vasquez had been paying attention.

Police obtained records from Hulu with a search warrant that showed the streaming ended at 9:59 p.m. on March 18.

We've seen this before - drivers using semi-autonomous or almost autonomous features in cars start looking away from the road, going on their phones, and watching much more entertaining things like TV shows and movies.

Following the crash in March, Uber suspended all of its self-driving auto testing on public roads before laying off 300 of its self-driving vehicle operators in Arizona and permanently shutting down its testing there. Instead of the system, Uber relies on the human backup driver to intervene, the report stated.

Uber immediately halted public testing of its self-driving vehicles following the crash. Her role - a legally required one, as per the terms of Uber's autonomous testing permit in Arizona - was to monitor the car's behavior and be ready to step in should the vehicle fail to act safely or appropriately. She did not apply the brakes until after the collision.

Vasquez's cellphone records seem to contradict statements she gave National Transportation Safety Board investigators earlier this year.

The report found that Vasquez "was distracted and looking down" for close to seven of the almost 22 minutes prior to the collision. "We plan to share more on the changes we'll make to our program soon".

Uber released video footage shortly after the accident highlighting the moments just before the self-driving Volvo struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she was crossing the street with her bicycle.

The Yavapai County Attorney's Office hasn't set a deadline for deciding whether to bring charges, said Penny Cramer, assistant to County Attorney Sheila Polk.

A fatal Tesla crash in Florida may have involved the driver watching a Harry Potter movie on a portable DVD player while the car's Autopilot mode was engaged. Her job was to look at the road and prepare for any emergencies, Uber confirmed.

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