Uber will not be held criminally liable in the fatal crash last year in Tempe, Arizona, in which a self-driving vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian, a county prosecutor announced Tuesday.
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said Uber won’t face criminal charges in the March 2018 crash — believed to be the first fatality in the U.S. involving a self-driving vehicle. Polk said her office concluded that video of the crash likely didn’t accurately depict the collision and recommended that Tempe police seek more evidence.
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It’s not known whether prosecutors are considering charges against the driver.
Dashcam video released by the Tempe Police Department last year showed an interior view of Uber backup driver Rafael Vasquez in the moments before the crash. She told investigators she wasn’t using her phone before the crash, but the video shows her looking down inside the car.
Moments later, exterior footage shows the moments leading up to a pedestrian being hit by the Uber Volvo XC-90. Elaine Herzberg, 49, was pushing a bicycle across a street in the darkness when she was fatally struck by the vehicle, which was moving at about 44 miles per hour.
Authorities revealed in June that Vasquez had been watching "The Voice" prior to the crash. Investigators concluded that if Vasquez wasn’t distracted, the crash wouldn’t have occurred.
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Vasquez told authorities that Herzberg "came out of nowhere," and didn’t see her prior to the collision. However, officers calculated that had Vasquez been paying attention, she could have reacted 143 feet before impact, and could have brought the SUV to a stop about 42.6 feet before hitting Herzberg.
Review of the video reportedly revealed that Vasquez peered down roughly 200 times over the course of 11.8 miles.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in May said the Uber’s autonomous driving system spotted Herzberg before hitting her but didn’t stop because the system used to automatically apply brakes in potentially dangerous situations had been disabled "to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior."
Instead of the system, Uber relies on the human backup driver to intervene.
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Uber pulled its self-driving cars out of Arizona the day before the NTSB report was released, eliminating the jobs of about 300 people who served as backup drivers and performed other jobs connected to the vehicles.
The company had suspended testing of its self-driving vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto while regulators investigated the cause of the crash. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey prohibited Uber from continuing its tests of self-driving cars after Herzberg was killed.
Fox News’ Elizabeth Zwirz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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