Earlier this year, a self-driving SUV struck and killed a woman in Arizona.
Rafaela Vasquez, who was behind the wheel for Uber at the time, was watching ‘The Voice’ when her car hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she tried to cross a street.
Police obtained records from Hulu with a search warrant, which revealed Vasquez had been streaming “The Voice” to her cell phone at the time of the crash, the Arizona Republic reported. Tempe police wrote that the driver “appears to be looking down at the area near her right knee at various points in the video.”
Sometimes her face “appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down. Her hands are not visible in the frame of the video during these times.”
Vasquez looked down toward her right knee 204 times in the 11.8 miles she traveled before the fatal crash, according the report. Of the 22 minutes she spent behind the wheel, she spent six minutes and 47 seconds with her head down.
The police report concluded that although Herzberg was outside of the crosswalk when she was hit, Vasquez’s “disregard for assigned job function to intervene in a hazardous situation” played a part in the crash.
According to the preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board last month, the autonomous driving system on the Volvo XC-90 SUV caught sight of Herzberg about six seconds before hitting her. It did not stop though, as the system used to automatically apply the brakes in a dangerous situation had been disabled.
“The car was in auto-drive,” Vasquez can be heard telling officers in body camera footage released after the crash. “All of sudden… the car didn’t see it, I couldn’t see it. I know I hit her.”
Authorities at first determined Vasquez was not impaired at the time. Several days later they got search warrants for her two cell phones and served them to Netflix and Google, which owns YouTube and Hulu.
An Uber spokeswoman in a prepared statement on Friday said that using a mobile device while working as a back-up driver when the vehicle is in motion is a fireable offense. Prosecutors are also considering charges against the driver.
The safety board is investigating Uber. The ride-sharing platform has suspended self-driving pilot programs in several states.
She couldn’t wait to watch ‘The Voice’ until she got home? The show isn’t that good.