The ‘likely not at fault' conclusion in the fatal collision of a self-driving Uber car and a 49-year old woman in Arizona earlier this year has been thrown into question, with new evidence showing that the ‘safety driver' may have been watching TV.
A police report says that the crash, which killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg, was ‘entirely avoidable' if driver Rafaela Vasquez had been paying attention.
Vasquez was instead looking at her phone, glancing up 0.5 seconds before the collision. She could face charges of manslaughter, reports The Guardian.
Uber's self-driving SUV was travelling at under 44mph at the time of the incident and was in autonomous mode. However, companies are required by law not to allow such vehicles on the roads without a human, who can take over in dangerous situations, in the driver's seat.
Records from online streaming service Hulu show that Vasquez's account was streaming The Voice on the evening in question, ending at 21:59 - about the time of the crash.
Both Vasquez and Uber have declined to comment on the new evidence. Uber's policy is to ban any use of mobile devices by the safety driver while its autonomous vehicles are on public roads.
Video from inside the car, seen by the police, shows Vasquez looking down during the trip. Her face ‘appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down'.
According to the police report, Vasquez was distracted in this way for seven of the nearly 22-minutes just prior to the collision. However, she told investigators that she was monitoring the car's self-driving interface and wasn't using either her personal or business phones.
Rather heartlessly, the police report criticised Herzberg for jaywalking before she was hit by the car.
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