It has been a few months since the Uber accident that grabbed headlines across the nation, when a self-driving car being tested by the ride-sharing company fatally struck a pedestrian who was crossing the street in Tempe, Arizona. Now, police have completed their report on what happened, revealing that the Uber driver, Rafaela Vasquez, was watching the television show The Voice instead of paying attention to the road in front of her.
The Uber accident has raised serious questions about the safety of the self-driving equipment for many companies that are expanding into the market, but the 318-page report reveals a level of negligence that goes beyond the question of whether the technology is safe.
Though there is still a question as to why the car’s technology failed to stop when 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg crossed the street that night, that does not negate the fact that the safety driver was supposed to be monitoring the vehicle. Instead, an inquiry into Vasquez’ Hulu account revealed that she had been logged on to the show for nearly 45 minutes before the crash, including the time that it occurred.
Report Indicates that Uber Accident Was “Entirely Avoidable”
According to the police report, if Vasquez had been watching the road and backing up the car’s technology as she was being paid to do, there would not have been an accident, saying that it had been “entirely avoidable.” Video of the crash shows the driver looking down several seconds before the crash. When interviewed about that motion she had told NTSB investigators that she had been “monitoring the self-driving system interface,” and that she had not been using either her personal or business phones, which were both in the car.
The use of the Hulu account and the viewing of the screen at the time of the Uber accident was in direct contradiction of Uber’s policy against mobile devise usage while operating a self-driving vehicle, but the company acknowledges that it has not been monitoring its safety drivers in real time. Safety drivers are in the vehicles specifically to intervene when needed. According to a report, the vehicle’s detection system had spotted Herzberg, but the company had deactivated its emergency braking system.