Published: Tue, June 26, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

Uber autonomous auto driver distracted before crash

Uber autonomous auto driver distracted before crash

"The vehicle was in auto-drive", Rafaela Vasquez, 44, is heard telling police on an officer's body camera.

According to a spreadsheet provided by Hulu, it showed Vasquez' account was playing "The Voice" just prior to the crash. The streaming session ended at roughly the same time as the vehicle hit Elaine Herzberg. But Uber had disabled Volvo's emergency braking system so it didn't work when the vehicle was under computer control to reduce the potential for "erratic behavior". Here's what it won't do.

Other information, including post-crash photos of the damaged Uber and the red bicycle Herzberg was walking, were included in the report, along with audio clips of 911 calls from Vasquez and bystanders, and police officer video footage once emergency crews arrived at the crash site. Her "disregard for assigned job function to intervene in a hazardous situation" contributed to the crash, the newspaper reported.

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". They revealed that she was enjoying NBC's series The Voice on her phone until the time of the fatal accident in March.

The Volvo's internal video shows Vasquez repeatedly looking down below the dashboard as the vehicle speeds along, as observers noticed when the video was released in March.

The report found that Vasquez "was distracted and looking down" for close to seven of the almost 22 minutes prior to the collision.

Tempe Police say Vasquez had her head down for 5.3 seconds and only looked up 0.5 seconds before the crash. Tempe police Sgt. Ronald Elcock said that the pedestrian stepped into the street outside of the crosswalk and was immediately struck by the vehicle.

Police have referred the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for possible charges.

A spokeswoman for the Yavapai County Attorney's Office said on Friday that "the matter is still pending review".

"The vehicle operator stated that she had been monitoring the self-driving system interface".

"This tragedy was entirely avoidable because Uber never should have put such an incapable vehicle on the road in the first place".

Vasquez could face charges of vehicular manslaughter, according to the report, which was released late on Thursday in response to a public records request. After collecting records in the course of its investigation, the police department now believes the driver was watching Hulu instead of paying attention to the road at the time of the incident.

The Tempe police findings contradict what Vasquez told investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board. That report also said toxicology reports found Herzberg had methamphetamine and marijuana in her system.

Uber declined to comment on the police report. One video released from a police body camera shows a police sergeant talking to company representatives at the scene. "I hope that you guys do the same because we're going to be working together throughout this whole process from now, probably for months from now".

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