Uber driver streaming 'The Voice' just before fatal Ariz. crash

Uber driver was streaming Hulu show before fatal self-driving crash

Police say an Uber driver whose self-driving vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian was streaming a television show on her phone when the accident happened.

The local police force in Tempe, AZ, are supposing that the debacle could have been avoided if the test driver had been paying close attention to her surroundings, effectively contradicting the prior belief that the incident was unavoidable.

Records from online streaming service Hulu show that Vasquez's account was streaming The Voice on the evening in question, ending at 21:59 - about the time of the crash. As an NTSB report on the crash showed, Uber's safety drivers were charged with monitoring the self-driving system through a tablet in the vehicle as well as monitoring the road, institutionalizing the same kind of staring-at-a-screen distraction that Vasquez was seemingly doing on her own.

Police have referred the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for possible charges.

Uber released video footage shortly after the accident highlighting the moments just before the self-driving Volvo struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she was crossing the street with her bicycle.

In a statement issued to The Verge, an Uber spokesperson said the company prohibits its autonomous vehicle operators from using mobile devices while working. Instead, Uber relied on its drivers "to intervene and take action" even though its system doesn't sound a visual or audible alert.

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

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

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"Um, yes, um, I hit a bicyclist northbound Mill Avenue just south of Curry Road", says Vasquez in the 911 audio.

"She appears to be looking down at the area near her right knee at various points in the video", the report reads, according to Gizmodo. The human backup driver in an autonomous Uber SUV was streaming the television show "The Voice" just before the vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian, according to a published report.

The crash dealt Uber a major setback in its efforts to develop self-driving cars, and the company closed its autonomous vehicle testing programme in Arizona after the incident.

That report showed Uber had disabled the emergency braking system in the Volvo, and Vasquez began braking less than a second after hitting Herzberg.

"The report states data obtained from the self-driving system shows the system first registered radar and LIDAR observations of the pedestrian about six seconds before impact, when the vehicle was traveling 43 miles per hour", the NTSB's report on the crash reads.

Vasquez could not immediately be reached for comment and Reuters could not locate her attorney. She did not look up to see the pedestrian until half a second before the crash. The Uber self-driving program was suspended after the fatality and the Arizona program shut down.

While Tempe Police initially said Uber was "likely" not at fault in the accident, they didn't rule out the possibility of future charges against the backup driver.

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