The backup driver in an autonomous Uber vehicle was distracted, and a Hulu video was playing on her phone, before the auto struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, police determined. The human backup driver in an autonomous Uber SUV was streaming the television show "The Voice" just before the vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian, according to a published report. The report, as quoted by AZCentral, said: "Sometimes, her face appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down". A pedestrian pushing a bicycle walked into the road partway along a block between intersections, and the vehicle failed to swerve or stop in time to avoid a collision. The Volvo was traveling at about 40 miles per hour in the lane nearest the curb and never braked. Vasquez may now face charges of vehicular manslaughter, though it is unclear if county prosecutors have made a final decision.
The report goes on to state that the crash was "entirely avoidable" had Vasquez 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. After the incident which took place in March, Uber announced that they are closing self-driving vehicle operation in Arizona.
Drivers are told they can be fired for violating this rule.
David Friedman, director of cars and product policy and analysis safety at Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, says the Arizona crash shows that Uber's approach is risky. Uber's self-driving Volvo SUV was travelling at just under 44mph.
Uber told HuffPost it considers any smartphone or smartwatch use by its backup drivers while the vehicle is in motion a fireable offense, a point emphasized in training.
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.
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The fatality prompted the ride-hailing giant to suspend all road testing of self-driving vehicles in areas including Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
The police report concluded that even though Herzberg was outside of a crosswalk when hit, Vasquez was inattentive and failed to take control of the vehicle to avoid the crash. Video recordings don't show what she's doing with her hands.
The report found that Vasquez "was distracted and looking down" for close to seven of the almost 22 minutes prior to the collision.
Earlier this year, Uber said it employs about 400 human safety drivers like Vasquez across various cities.
A video released shortly after the fatal March 18 crash showed the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, with her head down until the moment they realized the vehicle they were behind the wheel of was about to strike someone. "We plan to share more on the changes we'll make to our program soon", an Uber spokesperson said in an email. Former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart is now a safety consultant for Uber.
This is the latest development in the ongoing investigation into the fatal crash.