Uber driver 'distracted' by streaming 'The Voice' in fatal crash

Driver was streaming The Voice when Uber self-driving car crashed, say police

Convicted felon behind the wheel of Uber self-driving car watching The Voice on phone before crash

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. A cellphone search warrant and the investigation determined Vasquez was streaming Hulu, watching the talent competition show The Voice, the report said. The streaming session ended at roughly the same time as the vehicle hit Elaine Herzberg. The Uber vehicle reportedly headed northbound in Tempe when a woman walking outside of the crosswalk was struck who eventually died from her injuries after onlookers took her to the nearby hospital.

The report goes on to state that the crash was "entirely avoidable" had Vasquez been paying attention.

According to the police report, Vasquez was distracted in this way for seven of the almost 22-minutes just prior to the collision.

Both Vasquez and Uber could still face civil liability in the case, Uber for potentially negligent hiring, training and supervision, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of SC law professor who closely follows autonomous vehicles.

"She appears to be looking down at the area near her right knee at various points in the video", the report reads.

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". As of the time of writing, Uber has not commented on the findings.

"This crash would not have occurred if Vasquez would have been monitoring the vehicle and roadway conditions and was not distracted", the report stated.

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Last month, an Uber spokeswoman said the company was undergoing a "top-to-bottom safety review" and had brought on a former federal transport official to help improve the company's safety culture. The Uber self-driving program was suspended after the fatality and the Arizona program shut down.

However, footage provided by Uber from the car's internal cameras showed Vasquez repeatedly glancing down rather than looking at the road. The crash occurred about 10 p.m.

The police documents also back up previous reports that Uber's self-driving vehicles were unable to perform emergency braking, relying entirely on the human driver to intervene in a risky situation.

Uber has a zero-tolerence policy prohibiting the use of mobile device, even a smartwatch, by its safety drivers, the spokesperson said. The report found that Vasquez "was distracted and looking down" for close to seven of the almost 22 minutes before the collision.

Maricopa County prosecutors will make the ultimate decision on whether or not to charge her. The Volvo came to Uber with a collision avoidance system that automatically brakes in emergencies, but Uber's vehicles are programmed to turn off that system when the auto is in autonomous mode.

This represented the first death involving an autonomous vehicle being tested on public roads.

The police report faulted her for "unlawfully crossing the road at a location other than a marked crosswalk".

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