This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The backup safety driver of the Uber self-driving vehicle that struck and killed a pedestrian in March was watching a TV show on her phone right up until the fatal crash, a police report on the incident released Thursday says.
The crash report, released from the police department in Tempe, Arizona, says the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, was repeatedly looking down at her phone while monitoring the self-driving car. She only looked up a half-second before the vehicle fatally struck a pedestrian, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk.
Records from streaming service Hulu obtained by the Tempe Police Department show that Vasquez was streaming the TV show “The Voice” for 42 minutes leading up to the crash. Vasquez stopped the show at 9:59pm, which the report says “coincides with the approximate time of the collision.”
Video from inside the vehicle reviewed by police shows Vasquez continually glancing down at her phone while monitoring the vehicle. Vasquez had previously told investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board that she had not been on her personal or business cell phone until after the crash occurred.
Tempe Police say the crash could have been “entirely avoidable” if Vasquez’s eyes had been on the road. As a result, she could potentially be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Prosecutors in Maricopa County are still examining whether to bring charges against Vasquez. Earlier investigations have also shown that the vehicle’s autonomous system did not detect and register Herzberg as an object in the road to avoid.
Uber requires a backup safety driver to monitor its vehicles that are in self-driving mode. Although the car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, federal investigators have found that Uber had disabled the emergency brakes in the self-driving car, and less than a second after hitting Herzberg, Vasquez began manually braking.
In the wake of the crash, believed to be the first of its kind involving a self-driving vehicle, Uber’s autonomous vehicle program is struggling to survive. The ride-sharing company voluntarily paused its self-driving operations in all cities directly after the crash. Shortly after, the state of Arizona revoked the company’s ability to test its autonomous vehicles in the state, which was once a tentpole location for the startup’s self-driving program. Uber also let its self-driving permit lapse in California following the fatal incident.
At the end of May, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that once safety tests are completed on the self-driving cars, the company plans to relaunch the autonomous program in coming days, noting that Uber self-driving vehicles “will get back on the road over the summer.”
Featured image by JasonDoiy/Getty Images.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees