Uber driver was watching tv show prior to fatal crash, police say

25 June, 2018, 07:39 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Elaine Herzberg was wheeling her bike across the road when she was hit by the Volvo which was being driven by Rafaela Vasquez

Hulu records showed that Vasquez had been watching "The Voice" for about 42 minutes.

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".

The Tempe Police Department released a 318-page document late Thursday that sheds new light on what likely happened when the vehicle hit pedestrian Elaine Herzberg, 49, in March as she walked a bicycle across a road in Tempe.

Uber has yet to officially confirm why the auto failed to stop when Herzberg stepped into the road, but company insiders told USA news site The Information that the self-driving software had chosen to ignore her.

Hulu provided detectives with Vasquez's "subscription ID, IP Address, Source ID, Device and Internet Service Provider that was streaming the videos", according to the report, suggesting it would know where the device was when it was streaming The Voice, although this information is redacted in the version of the report obtained by Quartz. It ended at 9:59pm, which "coincides with the approximate time of the collision", according to the report.

Dashcam footage shows her looking down, clearly not paying attention to the road.

Last month, the Uber spokeswoman said the company was undergoing a "top-to-bottom safety review", and had brought on a former USA federal transportation official to help improve its safety culture. It was the first fatal crash involving a self-driving vehicle. Instead of the system, Uber relies on the human backup driver to intervene, the report stated.

Uber has since shut down their self-driving program in the Valley. 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.

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Ms Vasquez looked up from her phone screen about 0.5 seconds before the crash, said the report, but had been concentrating on her phone for about 5.3 seconds previously.

"She appears to be looking down at the area near her right knee at various points in the video", the report reads.

Uber driver regulations strictly prohibits operators of any kind from using any device while behind the wheel, including phones and smart watches.

The Tempe Police Department's report released to Reuters builds on a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) preliminary report filed May 24.

In fact, the investigation revealed, Vasquez was looking down for 31 percent of the 21 minutes and 48 seconds before the crash, the report states. Former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart is now a safety consultant for Uber.

Attempts to reach Vasquez for comment were unsuccessful. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office was last reported to have referred the case to the Yavapai County Attorney's Office.

An officer who identifies himself as supervisor of the unit that investigates fatal crashes is seen asking a man who appears to be an Uber supervisor about getting video from the SUV and whether Uber's lawyers have been contacted.

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