Driver Rafaela Vasquez, 46, was indicted on Tuesday (15) for the death of a woman during tests with Uber’s autonomous vehicles in 2018. The American court accuses her of negligent homicide for watching a television program. during the autonomous vehicle accident, which hit and killed Elaine Herzberg in the city of Tempe, in the American state of Arizona.
Uber was not considered co-responsible for the accident, which happened in 2018 and was the first recorded death during the operation of an autonomous vehicle, raising investigations about the safety of the technology and resulting in the interruption of tests and revocation of licenses obtained by the company. Nor did the company comment on Vasquez’s indictment.
The driver pleaded not guilty to the accident, which happened during the night. Herzberg was hit by a bicycle while crossing the street from a location with poor visibility, which prevented her from being detected by the vehicle’s automatic systems. For the Tempe police and the National Transportation Safety Organization (NTSB), the body responsible for the investigation, the accident could have been prevented if Vasquez had been alert to traffic and pedestrians ahead.
In her statements about the indictment, prosecutor Allister Adel said that when taking control of a vehicle, the driver must know how to control and operate the car, being attentive throughout the journey, regardless of the autonomous category or not. In addition, for her, distractions behind the wheel are serious cases that lead to accidents of this type, being an issue of great importance for local authorities.
The speech is supported by the NTSB, which concluded its investigation last year by pointing out the responsibilities of both the driver, who was distracted and failed to act during the emergency, as she was expected, and Uber. In the case of the company, negligence was pointed out regarding the traffic and safety rules involved in the development of autonomous driving systems, such as the absence of alerts for the driver to pay attention to traffic and the very difficulty of identifying the pedestrian who was run over, as well such as the deactivation of emergency brakes that could be activated automatically in such cases.
Uber has not commented on the indictment of the driver, while her defense cannot be found by the local defense to talk about the matter. Vasquez responds to the process in freedom and has a trial scheduled for February 2021.