Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Backup driver in fatal Uber crash was distracted

National Transportation Safety Board investigators examining the Volvo that was involved in the crash. Vasquez initially told them neither her work nor her personal phone were in use at the time Driver was streaming The Voice when Uber self-driving car crashed, say police
Ebony Burgess | 26 June, 2018, 20:26

According to a report released by the Tempe Police Department, the fatal self-driving Uber crash in Tempe back in March was avoidable.

The police report suggests the car's driver was streaming an episode of talent show The Voice rather than monitoring the car's progress.

Uber is now conducting an internal safety review and has brought in former National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Christopher Hart to advise the company on its overall safety culture.

Following the crash in March, Uber suspended all of its self-driving auto testing on public roads before laying off 300 of its self-driving vehicle operators in Arizona and permanently shutting down its testing there. The operator of the vehicle was supposed to be watching the road and dealing with emergencies.

It prompted suspicions that the safety driver was otherwise occupied, and that led police to obtain records from Hulu, Reuters reports.

Uber driver regulations strictly prohibits operators of any kind from using any device while behind the wheel, including phones and smart watches.

In their conclusion, police say Vasquez's "inattention to the roadway" and "disregard for her assigned job function" ultimately resulted in the death of Herzberg. According to police, she "appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down". Video recordings don't show what she's doing with her hands.

"You guys know as well as I know that this is going to be an worldwide story", the police supervisor says.

In the lengthy report, Tempe police wrote that Vasquez "appears to be looking down at the area near her right knee at various points in the video".

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"We continue to cooperate fully with ongoing investigations while conducting our own internal safety review", an Uber spokesperson told Quartz.

Sensors on the Uber Volvo SUV's system had detected Herzberg six seconds before the impact and recognized that it was going to crash 1.3 seconds prior, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

"The vehicle was in auto-drive", Vasquez, 44, said. It is not clear what charges will be filed against Vasquez and the police submitted their findings to county prosecutors who will resolve the matter.

Tempe Police say Vasquez had her head down for 5.3 seconds and only looked up 0.5 seconds before the crash.

As a result, Arizona suspended Uber's self-driving vehicles from operating within the state: the company also launched an in-depth safety review in order to avoid similar incidents in the future. The ride-hailing company's specially outfitted Volvo was deliberately being tested on public roads without its emergency braking system turned on, the agency said.

Both Vasquez and Uber could still face civil liability in the case, Uber for potentially negligent hiring, training and supervision, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of SC law professor who closely follows autonomous vehicles.

The report says police initially determined that Vasquez was not impaired after giving her a field test.

It also noted that the roads were dry and level, and that there was no apparent medical condition that would have affected the driver at the time of the collision.

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