Arizona police say driver in fatal Uber crash was distracted

Charlene Craig
June 26, 2018

But here's the thing: even if Vasquez wasn't watching The Voice, police documents also clearly show that Uber's safety procedures were insufficient.

"The report states data obtained from the self-driving system shows the system first registered radar and LIDAR observations of the pedestrian about six seconds before impact, when the vehicle was traveling 43 miles per hour", the NTSB's report on the crash reads.

"I was not able to find anywhere in the literature that the self-driving systems alerts the vehicle operator to potential hazards or when they should take manual control of the vehicle to perform an evasive maneuver", a Tempe detective wrote in the report, according to Gizmodo.

It prompted suspicions that the safety driver was otherwise occupied, and that led police to obtain records from Hulu, Reuters reports.

In a statement, Uber said it was "cooperating fully" with the continuing investigations while it did its own internal safety review.

During their investigation, police sent search warrants to YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu to retrieve driver Rafaela Vasquez's viewing history at the time of the crash.

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

The Tempe police report said that during the drive, Vasquez "appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down". They revealed that she was enjoying NBC's series The Voice on her phone until the time of the fatal accident in March.

A spokeswoman last month said the company was undergoing a "top-to-bottom safety review". Uber's video shows the driver looking up a half second before the collision, having been looking down for 5.3 seconds.

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.

A preliminary report by the NTSB found Uber's modified Volvo XC90's LiDAR and radar first spotted an object in its path about six seconds before the crash.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey later suspended Uber from testing its self-driving cars in Arizona.

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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 Tempe Police Department is potentially seeking to file manslaughter charges against Vasquez.

The report goes on to state that the crash was "entirely avoidable" had Vasquez been paying attention. The incident - which grounded Uber's self-driving auto fleet as the company began an investigation into the safety of its vehicles - was "entirely avoidable" law enforcement have suggested.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office referred the case to the Yavapai County Attorney's office because of a conflict, and that office could not be reached late Thursday.

A fatal Tesla crash in Florida may have involved the driver watching a Harry Potter movie on a portable DVD player while the car's Autopilot mode was engaged.

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