Published: Tue, June 26, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Safety driver in fatal autonomous Uber crash was watching Hulu

Safety driver in fatal autonomous Uber crash was watching Hulu

Police also said that the crash was "deemed entirely avoidable" if Vasquez had been paying attention while the vehicle was operating autonomously. She was watching "The Voice" from 9:16 p.m. until 9:59 p.m. Police believe the crash happened while she was streaming that show.

Uber's self-driving system initially misidentified the 49-year-old victim, Elaine Herzberg, as a vehicle when she was pushing a bike across a dark thoroughfare, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

While the report reveals the actions of the safety driver, questions are still swirling around Uber's self-driving technology system in the modified Volvo XC90.

"The vehicle operator stated that she had been monitoring the self-driving system interface". The Arizona Republic reported that the driver was watching “The Voice, ” a television musical talent show.

According to the report, Vasquez, could face charges of vehicle manslaughter after the crash which the department called "entirely avoidable".

In their conclusion, police say Vasquez's "inattention to the roadway" and "disregard for her assigned job function" ultimately resulted in the death of Herzberg.

Police observed nine video segments from the Uber's dash-cam which showed Vasquez looking down 204 times "with almost all of them having the same eye placement at the lower center console near the area of her right knee". "During the 9 video clips, I found that the driver looked down 204 times with almost all of them having the same eye placement at the lower center console near her right knee". "All of a sudden. the auto didn't see it, I couldn't see it", she says. Vasquez told police Herzberg "came out of nowhere" and that she didn't see her prior to the collision.

Uber is beginning to digest the information from the investigation and safety review in order to return to the road as safely as possible, the company said.

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However, the car's automated safety braking system was deactivated by Uber in order to stop potentially erratic behavior. If Vasquez had braked, she would have given Herzberg an extra.57 seconds of time to cross in front of the vehicle.

In a statement emailed to PCMag, an Uber spokesperson said the company has a "strict policy prohibiting mobile device usage for anyone operating our self-driving vehicles".

As Uber told Phoenix New Times last month, and as the new Tempe police report states, Vasquez had been trained on the capabilities and limitations of the vehicle.

You've probably seen the video released by Tempe police, but it's available below.

That report showed Uber had disabled the emergency braking system in the Volvo, and Vasquez began braking less than a second after hitting Herzberg.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office referred the case to the Yavapai County Attorney's office because of a conflict, and that office could not be reached late Thursday.

Both Vasquez and Uber could still face civil liability in the case, Uber for potentially negligent hiring, training and supervision, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of SC law professor who closely follows autonomous vehicles.

Uber has shut down its self-driving operation in Arizona. The vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision.

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