Safety driver in autonomous Uber crash charged with negligent homicide
The driver pleaded not guilty
The Uber safety driver involved in a fatal autonomous crash pleaded not guilty after being charged with negligent homicide.
A Maricopa County, Ariz., Grand Jury announced on Tuesday that Rafaela Vasquez was charged on Aug. 27 for her alleged role in the 2018 accident that occurred in Tempe, Ariz., which resulted in the death of a pedestrian.
“Distracted driving is an issue of great importance in our community,” County Attorney Allister Adel said in a statement. “When a driver gets behind the wheel of a car, they have a responsibility to control and operate that vehicle safely and in a law-abiding manner.”
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Vasquez’s trial is scheduled for February.
Vasquez told investigators that she didn’t use her cell phone before the crash.
But the National Transportation Safety Board concluded Vasquez’s failure to monitor the road as she watched the television show “The Voice” on her phone was the main cause of the crash.
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The contributing factors cited by the board included Uber’s inadequate safety procedures and ineffective oversight of its drivers, the decedent's decision to cross the street outside of a crosswalk, and the Arizona Department of Transportation’s insufficient oversight of autonomous vehicle testing.
The board also concluded Uber’s de-activation of its automatic emergency braking system increased the risks associated with testing automated vehicles on public roads. Instead of the system, Uber relied on the human backup driver to intervene.
The Uber system detected the pedestrian 5.6 seconds before the crash. But it failed to determine whether she was a bicyclist, pedestrian or a so-called "unknown object," or that she was headed into the vehicle’s path, the board said.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.