The back-up safety driver present inside of an Uber self-driving vehicle that fatally hit a woman in Arizona in 2018 has been charged with negligent homicide. 46-year-old Rafaela Vasquez pleaded not guilty on Tuesday after being charged with the death of Elaine Herzberg on August 27, according to court records. The trial is slated to begin in February 2021.
- Vasquez was apparently distracted at the time of the accident, as she was watching an episode of "The Voice" on her phone while driving, according to internal camera footage. Tempe Police has said the crash was “entirely avoidable.”
- The accident will likely set a precedent for the autonomous vehicle industry, as prosecutors did not charge Uber with any criminal liability in the accident in March 2019, but did charge the back-up safety driver.
- In November 2019, the NTSB did fault Vasquez’s actions, but also held Uber responsible for inadequate attention to safety when developing its autonomous vehicle systems. The software in the modified Volvo SUV did not properly identify Herzberg as a pedestrian.