Published: Mon, June 25, 2018
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

Uber driver streaming 'The Voice' just before crash

Uber driver streaming 'The Voice' just before crash

The police report suggests the car's driver was streaming an episode of talent show The Voice rather than monitoring the car's progress.

The safety driver behind the wheel of an autonomous Uber prototype was allegedly watching a streaming video when she struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, earlier this year. Even if Vasquez was being fully negligent - and the documents do seem to show that - the details about Uber's self-driving test program that have emerged since the crash show that the company bears at least as much responsibility for the fatality as any safety driver, negligent or not.

The report found that Vasquez "was distracted and looking down" for close to seven of the almost 22 minutes prior to the collision. 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 detective seeking the warrant, identified as J. Barutha, wrote that based on information from the vehicular homicide unit, "it is believed that the crime of vehicular manslaughter has occurred and that evidence of this offense is now located in a 2017 Grey Volvo XC-90".

It is not yet clear if Vasquez will be charged - though police submitted their findings to county prosecutors who will make the determination. The report said that she looked down 166 times while the vehicle was in motion, frequently looking in the direction of her right knee.

Vasquez, 44, one of many Arizonans Uber hired for its self-driving auto testing program, was supposed to focus on the road ahead because the vehicles aren't ready to perform autonomously.

A crash report also indicated that the self-driving vehicle was traveling too fast for the road conditions. But the system is not created to alert the driver.

The incident in March raised alarms about the ability of autonomous technology to react to unexpected human behaviors and led to Uber temporarily shutting down its self-driving vehicle operations nationwide.

The incident led Uber to pull its fleet of self-driving cars off the streets of Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

Police say Vasquez called 911 immediately after the crash and a field-sobriety test conducted at the scene determined Vasquez was not impaired. At the time, the driverless Volvo vehicle was travelling at 44mph (70km/h). While the SUV was in motion, Vasquez averted her eyes away from the roadway almost a third of the time, according to the report.

Previously released video showed that Vasquez was looking down moments before the deadly crash and according to the newly-released 300-page police report, Vasquez was streaming "The Voice" on Hulu on a cellphone at the time of the crash. Video recordings don't show what she's doing with her hands. Before that happened, Governor Doug Ducey, who had lured the company to Arizona with promises of lax regulation, banned Uber's self-driving cars from the road after the crash. "We plan to share more on the changes we'll make to our programme soon".

A spokeswoman last month said the company was undergoing a "top-to-bottom safety review".

Uber has hired former National Transportation Safety Board chair Christopher Hart as an adviser on the company's overall safety culture. Uber declined to comment.

The report stated Vasquez could face charges stemming from the crash.

Uber settled quickly with some of Herzberg's family members but others have retained legal counsel.

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