Uber operator was watching `The Voice' before fatal self-driving crash

Uber safety driver was watching TV moments before fatal collision

PHOENIX The human backup driver in an autonomous Uber SUV was streaming the television show "The Voice" on her phone and looking downward just before fatally striking a pedestrian in suburban Phoenix, according to a police report.

Ms Herzberg, who had been walking her bike, died from her injuries in hospital. The Volvo was traveling at about 40 miles per hour in the lane nearest the curb and never braked.

Vasquez could face charges for vehicular manslaughter, according to Tempe Police Department. Based on testing, the crash would have been "entirely avoidable" had Vasquez been paying attention, the report said.

Police discovered that Uber's driver, Rafaela Vasquez, had been watching "The Voice" on Hulu for approximately 42 minutes before the crash, according to a police report obtained by Reuters.

It is not clear if Vasquez will be charged, and police submitted their findings to county prosecutors, who will make the determination.

After the crash, the ride-hailing company said it did a top-to-bottom safety evaluation, reviewing internal processes and safety culture. Uber employs drivers to sit behind the wheel and take over in the event of an emergency.

The report also noted that Uber's cars did not have a mechanism for alerting drivers about potential dangers.

The NTSB released its report one day removed from Uber announcing that it would end its self-driving operations in Arizona and lay off around 300 employees connected to the program.

The backup driver in the front seat of the self-driving Uber that killed a woman in March was streaming a TV show at the time of the accident. Vasquez told police Herzberg "came out of nowhere" and that she didn't see her prior to the collision.

The crash dealt Uber a major setback in its efforts to develop self-driving cars, and the company closed its autonomous auto testing programme in Arizona after the incident. Then, she told investigators that neither her personal nor work phones had been in use at the time.

In a statement issued to The Verge, an Uber spokesperson said the company prohibits its autonomous vehicle operators from using mobile devices while working. Video recordings don't show what she's doing with her hands.

This image made from video Sunday, March 18, 2018, of a mounted camera provided by the Tempe Police Department shows an exterior view moments before an Uber SUV hit a woman in Tempe, Ariz.

In fact, the investigation revealed, Vasquez was looking down for 31 percent of the 21 minutes and 48 seconds before the crash, the report states. "We plan to share more on the changes we'll make to our programme soon". Former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart is now a safety consultant for Uber.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office referred the case to the Yavapai County Attorney's office because of a conflict, and that office could not be reached late Thursday.

A fatal Tesla crash in Florida may have involved the driver watching a Harry Potter movie on a portable DVD player while the car's Autopilot mode was engaged.

A crash report indicated that the self-driving vehicle was traveling too fast for the road conditions.

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