A video still from a mounted camera captures the moment before a self-driving Uber SUV fatally struck a woman in Tempe, Ariz., last March. A Yavapai County prosecutor found that Uber is not criminally liable for the crash. A video still from a mounted camera captures the moment before a self-driving Uber SUV fatally struck a woman in Tempe, Ariz., last March. A Yavapai County prosecutor found that Uber is not criminally liable for the crash. An Arizona prosecutor has determined that Uber is not criminally liable in the death of a Tempe woman who was struck by a self-driving test car last year.
PHOENIX – Prosecutors announced Tuesday that they didn't find evidence to criminally charge Uber in the crash that killed a woman a year ago in Tempe. But it is leaving possible criminal charges against the autonomous car's operator back in Maricopa County officials' hands. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Sullivan Polk's Office took the case at the request of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery after he cited a potential conflict of interest. Polk in a Monday letter to Montgomery said her office would recommend that Tempe police further investigate to help Montgomery's office determine if any other charges should be filed against the driver. A report the Tempe Police Department released in June revealed 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, the operator of Uber's self-driving vehicle, was watching "The Voice" via a streaming service when the autonomous car hit 49-year-old Elena Herzberg on March 18 as she crossed a street outside of a crosswalk with her bike.
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. DRIVER IN FATAL SELF-DRIVING UBER CRASH WAS WATCHING'THE VOICE,' INVESTIGATORS SAY 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.
"This crash would not have occurred if Vasquez would have been monitoring the vehicle and roadway conditions and was not distracted," the Tempe, Ariz., police report said. The police report said Ms. Vasquez could face vehicular manslaughter charges. Tempe police have referred the case to the Yavapai County attorney's office, where a spokeswoman said the matter is under review. Uber said in a statement it has a "a strict policy prohibiting mobile device usage for anyone operating our self-driving vehicles." Ms. Vasquez, who no longer works for Uber, couldn't be reached for comment.
A year after the first fatality caused by a fully self-driving car, questions about liability in the event of a death involving the cars are still completely up in the air. Officials announced earlier this week that Uber won't face criminal charges in the death of a pedestrian struck and killed by one of its self-driving cars nearly a year ago in Tempe, Arizona. The Yavapai County Attorney's Office said it conducted a thorough review of the evidence and determined there was no basis for criminal liability against Uber. It did not detail how the decision was made and has declined to answer any questions on the case. The pedestrian was walking a bicycle across a road at night.