Backup driver in fatal Arizona Uber autonomous crash charged

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PHOENIX (AP) — The backup Uber driver involved in the first self-driving vehicle fatality has been charged with negligent homicide for being distracted in the moments before fatally striking a woman in suburban Phoenix.

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel’s office said on Tuesday that Rafaela Vasquez was charged with on Aug. 27 in the 2018 crash in Tempe that killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg. She pleaded not guilty during a hearing on Tuesday. Her attorney did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Associated Press.

Prosecutors declined in March 2019 to file criminal charges against Uber, as a corporation, in Herzberg’s death.

Vasquez, 46, told investigators that she didn’t use her cell phones before the crash.

But the National Transportation Safety Board concluded Vasquez’s failure to monitor the road as she watched the television show “The Voice” on her phone was the main cause of the crash.

The contributing factors cited by the board included Uber’s inadequate safety procedures and ineffective oversight of its drivers, Herzberg’s decision to cross the street outside of a crosswalk, and the Arizona Department of Transportation’s insufficient oversight of autonomous vehicle testing.

The board also concluded Uber’s de-activation of its automatic emergency …

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