Uber driver streaming Hulu prior to deadly self-driving crash in Tempe


The deadly collision happened on March 18 near Mill Avenue and Curry when 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was hit and killed by an Uber self-driving auto while she was crossing the street with her bicycle, in what was the first deadly crash involving a self-driving vehicle.

A search warrant obtained by Tempe police show her personal phone was streaming an episode of The Voice on Hulu until one minute before 10 p.m., the approximate moment of the crash, the new report shows.

According to a report last month by the US National Transportation Safety Board, which is also investigating the crash, Vasquez told federal investigators she had been monitoring the self-driving interface in the vehicle and that neither her personal nor business phones were in use until after the crash.

The police documents also back up previous reports that Uber's self-driving vehicles were unable to perform emergency braking, relying entirely on the human driver to intervene in a risky situation. They've left behind those murky, semi-autonomous levels with a driver at the ready (while the vehicle performs basic functions on its own) and moved to fully driverless cars.

A photo from the police report show's the self-driving Uber's front-end damage after the fatal crash.

Dash camera video shows Vasquez was looking down near her right knee for four or five seconds before the crash.

It is not clear if Vasquez will be charged, and police submitted their findings to county prosecutors, who will make the determination. 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.

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An Uber spokeswoman said in a prepared statement Friday morning that the company is cooperating with investigations while it does an internal safety review. Hulu provided records showing that Vasquez was watching "The Voice" just before the crash, the newspaper reported.

At the time she was known as Rafael and identified as male. 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. But the system is not created to alert the driver.

Companies developing self-driving technology vary widely in how they're testing cars.

David Friedman, director of cars and product policy and analysis safety at Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, says the Arizona crash shows that Uber's approach is risky. "All of a sudden. the vehicle didn't see it, I couldn't see it", she says.

"She appears to be looking down at the area near her right knee at various points in the video, " the report says.

Elaine Herzberg, the pedestrian killed in the incident, was faulted for "unlawfully crossing the road at a location other than a marked crosswalk" in the police report. They found no signs that she'd been texting, or talking with anyone, but they did notice three video apps one on of her phones that could've been drawing her attention-Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu.