Safety driver involved in fatal self-driving Uber crash was watching Hulu

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The backup driver in an autonomous Uber that struck and killed a pedestrian in March looked down inside the vehicle more than 200 times and her smartphone was streaming NBC's "The Voice" in the run-up to the deadly collision, according to Tempe, Ariz., police investigators.

This information comes from a massive release of reports, photos and 911 calls from the Tempe Police Department, the Arizona Republic reports.

Hulu records showed that Vasquez had been watching "The Voice" for about 42 minutes.

Police said video from inside the vehicle showed Vasquez was looking down during the trip, and her face "appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down".

Herzberg was crossing the street with her bicycle when she was hit by the Uber on March 19. The incident marked the first death involving a fully autonomous auto, and sparked concern over the safety of the technology.


The police concluded the crash wouldn't have occurred if Vasquez had been paying attention to the roadway, and indicated she could be charged with vehicular manslaughter. "The end time of 21:59:00 hours coincides with the approximate time of the collision", the report added.

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.

A federal report released last month showed that the Uber vehicle was equipped with radar, lidar, navigation sensors, a computer, and 10 cameras. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey prohibited Uber from continuing its tests of self-driving cars after Herzberg was run over.

Uber told the publication that it prohibits drivers from looking down at any device while manning an self-driving auto.

Vasquez could not immediately be reached for comment and Reuters could not locate her attorney.


The fatality prompted the ride-hailing giant to suspend all road testing of self-driving vehicles in areas including Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

During nine video segments obtained from the vehicle's dashcam, Vasquez looked down 204 times. Of the almost 22 minutes that elapsed during that distance, Vasquez was looking down for 6 minutes and 47 seconds, the newspaper reported. "We plan to share more on the changes we'll make to our programme soon". The case is in the hands of the Yavapai County Attorney's Office for review after the Maricopa County Attorney's Office referred the case because of a conflict.

Tempe police, in the report, reviewed video from inside the Volvo XC90 - some of which previously was made public - that showed Vasquez looking down moments before the crash. The operator of the vehicle was supposed to be watching the road and dealing with emergencies.

Earlier this year, Uber said it employs about 400 human safety drivers like Vasquez across various cities. Then, she told investigators that neither her personal nor work phones had been in use at the time.

While the report is bad news for Vasquez, the NTSB report also found that poor engineering decisions by Uber contributed to the crash.


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