SAN FRANCISCO - Police in Tempe, Arizona said evidence showed the "safety" driver behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber was distracted and streaming a television show on her phone right up until about the time of a fatal accident in March, deeming the crash that rocked the nascent industry "entirely avoidable."
A 318-page report from the Tempe Police Department, released late on Thursday in response to a public records request, said the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, repeatedly looked down and not at the road, glancing up just a half second before the car hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing the street at night.
According to the report, Vasquez could face charges of vehicle manslaughter. Police said that, based on testing, the crash was "deemed entirely avoidable" if Vasquez had been paying attention.
Police obtained records from Hulu, an online service for streaming television shows and movies, which showed Vasquez's account was playing the television talent show "The Voice" the night of the crash for about 42 minutes, ending at 9:59 p.m., which "coincides with the approximate time of the collision," the report says.
It is not clear if Vasquez will be charged, and police submitted their findings to county prosecutors, who will make the determination. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office referred the case to the Yavapai County Attorney's office because of a conflict and that office could not be reached late Thursday.
Vasquez could not immediately be reached for comment and Reuters could not locate her attorney.
The Uber car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, but Uber, like other self-driving car developers, requires a back-up driver in the car to intervene when the autonomous system fails or a tricky driving situation occurs.
Vasquez looked up just 0.5 seconds before the crash, after keeping her head down for 5.3 seconds, the Tempe Police report said. Uber's self-driving Volvo SUV was travelling at just under 44 miles-per-hour.
Uber declined to comment.