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Police: Arizona monitor in deadly Uber crash was watching TV

June 22 (UPI) — The human safety monitor of a self-driving Uber SUV that hit and killed an Arizona woman during a test this year was watching television at the time of the collision, police said.

A report Thursday by Tempe, Ariz., police included more than 300 pages of information, videos, photos and a 911 call from the accident.

Forty-nine-year-old Elaine Herzberg was hit in March as she walked across a street in Tempe, about 8 miles east of downtown Phoenix.

One of the videos released Thursday captured an officer’s conversation with the human controller, Rafaela Vasquez, who was responsible for monitoring the SUV during the self-driving test.

“The car was in auto-drive,” Vasquez, 44, said. “All of a sudden … the car didn’t see it, I couldn’t see it. I know I hit her.”

The police report sad Vasquez had been watching a TV show in the moments before she struck Herzberg. A cellphone search warrant and the investigation determined Vasquez was streaming Hulu, watching the talent competition show The Voice, the report said. A field sobriety determined Vasquez was not impaired.

As Uber’s safety driver, Vasquez is supposed to take control if the self-driving system fails or if the vehicle risks endangering others.

Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a report that said Uber puts the responsibility for emergency braking on safety drivers like Vasquez.

Uber said the autonomous system also relies on the human operator to monitor diagnostic messages on the dashboard and tag events for review.

Tempe police have recommended charges against Vasquez, citing a “disregard for assigned job function to intervene in a hazardous situation,” noting Herzberg’s death could have been avoided.

Uber announced in May it was scrapping self-driving vehicle tests in Arizona after the woman’s death led the state to withdraw its permit.

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