Uber safety driver was watching TV moments before fatal collision

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

According to the spreadsheet of watch data from Hulu, Vasquez was streaming television episodes for approximately three hours the night of the crash.

An Uber driver in a self-driving auto was streaming television until moments before the vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian, according to police.

The report released Thursday details the death of 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg the nation's first fatal crash involving a pedestrian and a self-driving vehicle.

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

A video released shortly after the fatal March 18 crash showed the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, with her head down until the moment they realized the vehicle they were behind the wheel of was about to strike someone. The apps were found on one or both of Vasquez's phones.

Other companies, such as Uber, are rolling out technology quicker and testing it in real world situations on public roads, with the fail safe that human drivers are in the front seat, watching the road, and ready to react if needed in an emergency.

Hulu provided detectives with Vasquez's "subscription ID, IP Address, Source ID, Device and Internet Service Provider that was streaming the videos", according to the report, suggesting it would know where the device was when it was streaming The Voice, although this information is redacted in the version of the report obtained by Quartz.

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The detective seeking the warrant, identified as J. Barutha, wrote that based on information from the vehicular homicide unit, "it is believed that the crime of vehicular manslaughter has occurred and that evidence of this offense is now located in a 2017 Grey Volvo XC-90".

We've seen this before - drivers using semi-autonomous or almost autonomous features in cars start looking away from the road, going on their phones, and watching much more entertaining things like TV shows and movies. During that distance, Vasquez looked down 204 times toward her right knee, the report says.

Following the crash, Uber has dealt with a major setback in its aim to develop self-driving cars. But the system is not created to alert the driver. But the system couldn't activate the brakes because, according to Uber, emergency braking isn't enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, the report said.

Uber originally launched its self-driving cars onto the streets of Pittsburgh back in September 2016. She lost her job when Uber chose to shut down its operation in Arizona and lay off its safety drivers. A field sobriety determined Vasquez was not impaired. The vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision. While the SUV was in motion, Vasquez averted her eyes away from the roadway almost a third of the time, according to the report. She also claimed that neither her personal or business phones were in use at the time of the crash.

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

"We have a strict policy prohibiting mobile device usage for anyone operating our self-driving vehicles", Uber wrote in an emailed statement. "We plan to share more on the changes we'll make to our programme soon". The company now says it will happen sometime this summer, indicating the top-to-bottom safety review and investigation into the Tempe crash is taking longer than expected. Uber also said it brought in former transportation safety board chairman Christopher Hart to advise the company on safety.

Vasquez no longer works for Uber, a company spokeswoman told the Tribune-Review.

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