Uber Driver in Fatal Self-Driving Car Crash Was Streaming Hulu

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

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

Police in Tempe, Arizona said evidence showed the "safety" driver behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber was distracted and streaming a television show on her phone right up until about the time of a fatal accident in March, deeming the crash that rocked the nascent industry "entirely avoidable".

The Tempe Police Department's report released to Reuters builds on a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) preliminary report filed May 24.

Elaine Herzberg, 49, was killed March 18 while crossing the street outside of a crosswalk in what was reported at the time to be the first known death of a person hit by an autonomous vehicle on a public roadway.

Previously released video showed that Vasquez was looking down moments before the deadly crash and according to the newly-released 300-page police report, Vasquez was streaming "The Voice" on Hulu on a cellphone at the time of the crash. The streaming session ended at roughly the same time as the vehicle hit Elaine Herzberg.

Police say dashcam footage shows that Vasquez "was distracted and looking down" during the almost 22-minute drive that preceded the crash. The woman had been walking her bike in the dark across the two-lane road, far from a crosswalk, and was hit just before she made it to the sidewalk.

Uber told the publication that it prohibits drivers from looking down at any device while manning an self-driving vehicle. She was looking down for 5.2 of the final 5.7 seconds prior to the crash, the report says.

Uber is now reviewing its safety precautions and recently hired former National Transportation Safety Board chair Christopher Hart as a safety adviser, the company said in a statement issued to Gizmodo on Friday.

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Following the crash, Uber has dealt with a major setback in its aim to develop self-driving cars.

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.

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.

During Vasquez's ride in the Uber vehicle, which was recorded on video inside the vehicle as part of the testing, she looked down 204 times, mostly in the direction of the lower center console near her right knee, according to the police report. "We plan to share more on the changes we'll make to our program soon", an Uber spokesperson said in an email. 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.

Maricopa County prosecutors will make the ultimate decision on whether or not to charge her.

On a body camera video the night of the crash, police gathered at the scene quickly realized that they were dealing with a big story because an autonomous vehicle was involved. Vasquez, meanwhile, could face vehicular manslaughter charges.

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