Uber operator in fatal self-driving crash likely distracted

Uber operator in fatal self-driving crash likely distracted

She was watching "The Voice" from 9:16 p.m. until 9:59 p.m. Police believe the crash happened while she was streaming that show.

At the time she was known as Rafael and identified as male. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office was last reported to have referred the case to the Yavapai County Attorney's Office.

Uber stopped its self-driving auto testing program in Arizona last month following the NTSB report but is continuing to experiment with autonomous vehicles in other states.

Police observed nine video segments from the Uber's dash-cam which showed Vasquez looking down 204 times "with almost all of them having the same eye placement at the lower center console near the area of her right knee". Instead, the NTSB report highlighted, "the developmental self-driving system relies on an attentive operator to intervene if the system fails to perform appropriately during testing".

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. She told NTSB investigators she was monitoring the self-driving system's interface. Uber's policy is to ban any use of mobile devices by the safety driver while its autonomous vehicles are on public roads.

Uber has said it's in the middle of a top-to-bottom review of its safety culture, including operating procedures for its vehicle operators, led by former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart.


In the lengthy report, Tempe police wrote that Vasquez "appears to be looking down at the area near her right knee at various points in the video". According to an analysis of the incident, police said "the crash was deemed entirely avoidable". Hulu, after first mistakenly providing police with data on someone else's account, found Vasquez was watching an episode of the popular NBC talent show The Voice around a minute before the crash, and for much of the preceding hour. "We plan to share more on the changes we'll make to our program soon", an Uber spokesperson said in an email.

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. Vasquez, meanwhile, could face vehicular manslaughter charges.

Attempts to reach Vasquez for comment were unsuccessful.

Uber shuttered its autonomous vehicle testing programme in Arizona after the incident, and says it plans to begin testing elsewhere this summer, although in some cities it will have to first win over increasingly wary regulators.

An officer who identifies himself as supervisor of the unit that investigates fatal crashes is seen asking a man who appears to be an Uber supervisor about getting video from the SUV and whether Uber's lawyers have been contacted. "We want to make sure that we're doing not only what we normally do and not doing anything different, but also making sure that everything's above board and everything's out in the open".

"You guys know as well as I do that this is going to be, like, an global story, " he says.

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