The driver responsible for overseeing the self-driving Uber prototype that struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona earlier this year was watching The Voice on her phone before the crash, according to a new report from Tempe Police.
A report released on Friday last week reveals Rafaela Vasquez was streaming The Voice on Hulu for just over 40 minutes on the night of the incident, with the viewing session ending at 9:59pm – right around the time of the accident. According to the US National Transport Safety Board, that means she started watching just minutes after the drive started.
The report says she repeatedly looked down before the crash, averting her gaze from the road, and only glanced up half a second before the Volvo XC90 tester struck Elaine Herzberg.
Vasquez looked down 204 times during the car's journey, which ended when the vehicle hit Herzberg at 70km/h. Although she told police the pedestrian appeared out of nowhere, the police report says she could have braked 43 metres before the eventual crash site, which would have pulled the XC90 up with more than 10 metres to spare.
As a result, Tempe Police says the accident was "entirely avoidable" if Vasquez had been diligent in her duties. She could be charged with vehicular manslaughter, although police haven't filed charges yet.
It's also worth noting, the report acknowledges the fact Herzberg was crossing the road "unlawfully... at a location other than a marked crosswalk".
Uber has terminated its self-driving program in Arizona, but says it plans to start testing elsewhere again later this year – provided it can convince regulators to grant it a permit.
That could be tough, given the fallout from the accident. A report quoting 'two people briefed about the matter' revealed the Volvo XC90 test car actually spotted Herzberg crossing the road, but didn't respond or take any evasive action because the system designed to stop 'false positives' was poorly tuned.