Uber Driver in Fatal Self-Driving Car Crash Was Streaming Hulu

Uber Driver in Fatal Self-Driving Car Crash Was Streaming Hulu

A few days after the crash, police obtained a search warrant for Vasquez's two cellphones and served warrants on three companies that provide streaming services - Hulu, Netflix and Google, which owns YouTube - in an effort to determine if the driver had been watching shows on her phones while driving. The operator of the vehicle was supposed to be watching the road and dealing with emergencies.

Uber spokespeople speaking to Gizmodo already appear to be steering the conversation towards blaming Rafaela Vasquez, the operator in the Uber vehicle. She had a startled look on her face seconds before the impact.

In its experiments with driverless cars, Uber has mandated that a human operator pays attention at all times so they can take over in hard situations or when the vehicle encounters a situation it does not know how to handle.

Vasquez told the National Transportation Safety Board, which is also investigating the crash, she had been monitoring the self-driving interface in the vehicle and neither her personal nor business phones were in use until after the crash.

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

The accident occurred March 18 at about 10 p.m. when an Uber self-driving vehicle struck 49-year-old pedestrian Herzberg on Mill Avenue, just south of Curry Road, according to the Tempe Police Department. The apps were found on one or both of Vasquez's phones.

Video from inside the vehicle shows Herzberg glances down more than 200 times and "appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the time she is looking down", the report states. She could face charges of manslaughter, reports The Guardian.


After the crash, the ride-hailing company said it did a top-to-bottom safety evaluation, reviewing internal processes and safety culture.

Uber said in a statement that any use of a cellphone while a vehicle is in drive is a fireable offense and that, "This is emphasized during training and on an ongoing basis". Instead of the system, Uber relies on the human backup driver to intervene, the report stated.

In a span of 11.8 miles behind the wheel, Vasquez is said to have looked down 204 times toward her right knee and that in those 22 minutes she had her head down for almost 7 minutes.

The system is disabled while Uber's cars are under computer control, "to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior", the NTSB report said.

"When using the built-in timer on the video player and moving the video frame by frame, the video player shows that her eyes were averted from the roadway for 4.2 seconds". The new report says Vasquez told police she'd been driving without her hands on the wheel, or feet on the pedals.

"You guys know as well as I know that this is going to be an worldwide story", the police supervisor says.

Uber is beginning to digest the information from the investigation and safety review in order to return to the road as safely as possible, the company said.

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