A back-up safety driver who is behind the death of a woman caused by a self-driving Uber Technologies UBER.N test vehicle in Tempe, Arizona, in 2018 was charged with negligent homicide. Rafael Vasquez, age 46, who is also known as Rafaela, pleaded not guilty after being charged in the death of Elaine Herzberg on Aug. 27, court records show.
Herzberg died after she was struck while walking a bicycle across a street at night. The first recorded death involving a self-driving vehicle prompted significant safety concerns about the vehicle industry. “Distracted driving is an issue of great importance in our community”. “When a driver gets behind the wheel of a car, they have a responsibility to control and operate that vehicle safely.” Police said that the crash was “entirely avoidable” and that Vasquez was streaming “The Voice” TV program at the time of the crash.
Uber made a series of development decisions that contributed to the crash’s cause. The software in the modified Volvo XC90 did not properly identify Herzberg as a pedestrian and did not address “operators’ automation complacency.” Uber deactivated the automatic emergency braking systems in the Volvo XC90 vehicle and precluded the use of immediate emergency braking, relying instead on the back-up driver.