The surrogate driver of the Uber autonomous vehicle who killed a 49-year-old woman in Tempe, Arizona, in 2018 pleaded guilty to one count of endangerment and was sentenced to three years probation Friday.
Rafaela Vásquez worked as a security driver for Uber’s autonomous vehicle testing program in Arizona. She was behind the wheel when her vehicle struck Elaine Herzberg, who was pushing a bicycle across the street. The accident, which occurred on March 18, 2018, is believed to be the first fatal collision involving an autonomous car.
Prosecutors described Vasquez as the “eyes and ears” of the vehicle, which was operating in autonomous mode at the time of the collision. according to the arizona republic. Police claimed that he was streaming the television show “La Voz” on his phone at the time, but Vasquez claimed that he was monitoring the vehicle’s systems and that he had taken his eyes off the road at a crucial moment.
Investigators have said the car saw Herzberg but did not stop automatically and that Vasquez did not brake until it was too late. The car detected that Herzberg was crossing the road with her bike 5.6 seconds before the impact, but although the system continued to track Herzberg up to the time of the accident, it never correctly identified her as a human being on the road, nor did it accurately predict . their way The case has raised important questions about how to safely test new technology and who should be held accountable when something goes wrong.