Police say Uber safety driver in fatal collision was watching Hulu at time of impact

By Shawn Knight · 22 replies
Jun 22, 2018
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  1. In it, police point to evidence suggesting the human safety driver, Rafaela Vasquez, had been distracted by streaming video on her phone. Had she been doing her job, the crash could have been “entirely avoidable,” police say.

    Uber released video footage shortly after the accident highlighting the moments just before the self-driving Volvo struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she was crossing the street with her bicycle. In it, Vasquez can clearly be seen looking down at something just before impact.

    According to the report, the safety driver had her head down for 5.3 seconds and looked up at the road just 0.5 seconds before the collision. The report further notes that Vasquez’s Hulu account had been playing the television talent show “The Voice” for about 42 minutes on the night of the crash and ended at 9:59 p.m., coinciding with the approximate time of the collision.

    As Reuters highlights, the report notes that Vasquez was distracted and looking down for close to seven of the nearly 22 minutes before the crash. Uber prohibits safety drivers from using any mobile device while behind the wheel.

    Vasquez reportedly told federal investigators that she had been monitoring the self-driving interface in the vehicle and that neither her personal nor business phones were in use until after the crash.

    Herzberg walked across the road outside of a crosswalk. The police report faulted her for “unlawfully crossing the road at a location other than a marked crosswalk.”

    Vasquez could face charges of vehicle manslaughter. County prosecutors will decide if charges will be pressed, we’re told.

    Uber reached a settlement with the family of Elaine Herzberg less than two weeks after the incident, avoiding a potential legal battle.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Vulcanproject

    Vulcanproject TS Guru Posts: 428   +466

    Driver fault. All responsibility still legally rests with the human behind the wheel. Enjoy your jail time.
  3. Jeff Re

    Jeff Re TS Booster Posts: 98   +50

    It seemed pretty obvious that she was doing something.
  4. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Maniac Posts: 324   +199

    So, they are still trying to pin the blame on the driver than their self-wrecking vehicle. Got it. Point the blame at others, carry on. This will continue on in the self-wrecking car industry.

    The hardware/software failed. Had they made this driveless, as they want to force us to be, who would they blame then?
  5. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,538   +1,069

    Really? I mean... really?

    Her whole job was to be watching the road because they are testing the self driving feature, reason why you don't see cars available that advertise full automatic driving.

    Should this be used to improve self driving capabilities? You are damn straight right. Should it be blamed on the auto driving? You are damn wrong, it was her job.
  6. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 2,916   +2,074

    The hardware/software wasn't intended to be flawless. That's exactly why there was a safety driver who was supposed to correct any issues. They failed to do so.

    So question: Do other people blame your kids when they do something wrong? No, they blame the guardian who is supposed to be watching them. Kids are flawed, it's the guardian's job to ensure their safety. That sound familiar? Yep, exact same situation here.

    When your job is to ensure something's safety because you know it isn't perfect, all the responsibility falls onto you.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
    cliffordcooley, dms96960 and Kibaruk like this.
  7. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Maniac Posts: 324   +199

    "The hardware/software wasn't intended to be flawless."

    DING! And it NEVER will be. So, why not just always have a disclaimer it is a person sitting in the car's fault? They force these things onto the streets at the public's safety risk. How would you like to try crossing in front of one of these? You know, it would have killed you in the same situation every time - without mercy. Multi billion dollar class action lawsuit in 3...2...1...

    You want to bring kids into this? Do you not have any juvenile halls in your country? Kids have free will. We each have our own. The parents can't be pointed at unless there is negligence. You know if that was a child crossing the street to get their ball that one of these cars would have killed them too? Do you not have any kids? The shortsightedness of people makes me smh.
  8. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 2,916   +2,074

    "They force these things onto the streets at the public's safety risk"

    The same could be said of regular people as well. Statistically speaking you have a much higher chance of being killed by another person driving a car than a car driving itself.

    "You know, it would have killed you in the same situation every time - without mercy"

    We already have that, it's called drunk drivers. Only here you are complaining about 1 incident when 29 people die per day from drunk drivers in the US alone.
    dms96960 likes this.
  9. Reachable

    Reachable TS Maniac Posts: 255   +115

    Jaywalking should not EVER be a crime. Take some time to ponder that if you never have, because contemporary society has warped everyone's perspective. The only exception would be when the street crosser is DELIBERATELY trying to cause an accident, but how exceedingly rare that would ever be.

    With the exception of limited-access highways, built specifically for motor traffic and only motor traffic, a public road is a thoroughfare for all. It is the responsibility for faster and larger vehicles to watch out for, avoid, and give right of way to pedestrians, bicycles, and smaller motor vehicles. The right of way is inverse to the size, the bigger and/or faster must yield to the smaller and slower. The infestation of cars got so bad that pedestrians came to be looked at as interlopers and interferers and laws were made to limit their use of public roads.

    If you're a pedestrian I would recommend, for your own safety, to use crosswalks when crossing the street. But you're perfectly within your rights in a sane world to cross wherever you want.

    I'm posting this in an earlier article as well. Hopefully that's not against the rules.
    regiq likes this.
  10. OutlawCecil

    OutlawCecil TS Guru Posts: 457   +305

    Legally, drivers fault. Realistically, the jaywalker's fault.

    Yes maybe the car's sensors should have picked her up but this road was pitch black! I don't know about you guys, but I wouldn't have seen her in time even if I was paying attention. This is sad, but still a case of Darwinism...
    dms96960 likes this.
  11. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Maniac Posts: 324   +199

    Please cite numbers for the statistics you are referencing. You are also trying to relate a fraction of a fraction of the driving population against the entirety of the country. It is comical you would try that. If you want to get real - let's also put these cars in the real world of driving - all weather conditions and offroad situations. Let's also add trailer hauling. Let's see how your padded numbers do then. :) This is what I mean about blindly pushing it on the population - these manufacturers are playing on people like you on how "safe" these are.

    Please explain how the person watching a video would be any different than a drunk driver. Both have the possibility to kill people. People who force these cars on us will become complacent and be watching their cell phones anyway as they get 'comfortable' with it - as this situation already shows us.
  12. ghostf1re

    ghostf1re TS Maniac Posts: 279   +150

    I said this from the beginning. She was clearly at fault and Uber should not have settled. Uber should have waited on the full investigation and then hung their driver out to dry. While it was dark and the woman wasn't in a crosswalk, a driver watching the road, may have seen her well before the accident occurred.
    dms96960 likes this.
  13. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 2,916   +2,074


    How exactly is it comical that 29 people die a day from drunk driving?

    "these manufacturers are playing on people like you on how "safe" these are."

    How is anyone getting played? Just going by the numbers they are safer. Unless you have evidence to back that claim up, it's nothing more than your opinion.

    "Please explain how the person watching a video would be any different than a drunk driver. Both have the possibility to kill people. People who force these cars on us will become complacent and be watching their cell phones anyway as they get 'comfortable' with it - as this situation already shows us."

    Well first, this person was supposed to be paying attention. What you are doing is taking a single instance of something bad and trying to apply it to everything. 1 person screws up and now all autonomous vehicles are bad. Ridiculous logic, that is. I saw a guy changing his pants while driving and ram into a trailer, does that suddenly make all people unsuitable for the road?

    "People who force these cars on us will become complacent and be watching their cell phones anyway as they get 'comfortable' with it - as this situation already shows us."

    You do realize that the goal of autonomous vehicles is so that you don't have to drive and spend hundreds of hours behind the wheel anymore, right? Getting "comfortable" is only a bad thing right now because people expect the car to do everything. In the future? You could be spending that time taking a dump.
  14. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,851   +1,393

    Never is a long time. While I am generally not in favor of the current state of self-driving vehicles, if development is stopped now because of these accidents, certainly the hardware/software will never be better than it is.

    I tend to be on your side - I.e., the hardware/software should have been able to detect the woman. However, I cannot excuse the driver for watching trivial crap, IMO, on Hulu instead of paying attention to what the car was doing.

    It is likely that the software/hardware will mature enough so that the frequency of accidents becomes statistically minimal. I bet if one were to look back on the airline industry, its early days had statistically more accidents than occur today.
    regiq and Evernessince like this.
  15. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 2,916   +2,074

    Exactly my line of thought. The primary goal of self-driving cars should be to save lives. We have far too many deaths involving cars that can be reduced. The last time people acted on fear was the anti-vax craze and because of that the only cure for lyme's disease in humans was banned in the US despite evidence showing it was completely safe.
  16. Ean Mogg

    Ean Mogg TS Enthusiast Posts: 83   +33

    Police in the UK pulled over a Tesla driver who turned autopilot on then jumped into the passenger seat haha remember we british drive on the the right side of the road not the wrong so he looks like he driving in the passenger seat when he's not ...

    Evernessince likes this.
  17. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 2,916   +2,074

    Should definitely be a strike on his license for that and mandatory driver safety classes. Tesla already put a visual and audio warning if you take your hands off the wheel during auto-pilot. The warning increases in frequency the longer your hands are off. The people ignoring this are doing so belligerently despite numerous warnings.

    If I were Tesla I would also lock those people out of the Auto-pilot feature.
  18. Reachable

    Reachable TS Maniac Posts: 255   +115

    When something bad happens the crowd starts looking for a convenient scapegoat. So often the situation is more complicated than that.
    Evernessince and wiyosaya like this.
  19. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,851   +1,393

    I think that at least part of the solution for this should be the car safely stops and refuses to drive any further. If the behavior continues, then the time the car takes to pull over should be lessened each time until it always pulls over as quickly as it can - essentially making it useless.

    But being that I dislike Musk to a large extent, I highly doubt he will do anything like this because it costs too much to implement.

    Absolutely, and I include Musk and Tesla in the crowd you speak of. To me, it seems that Musk has been highly reluctant to accept any responsibility at all in the matter, and so far, has also been highly reluctant to do anything meaningful about it. Blaming the driver is not meaningful, IMO, and is, simply put, scapegoating the driver.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
  20. MannerMauler

    MannerMauler TS Addict Posts: 202   +50

    Just letting you know, Tesla and Musk have nothing to do with this, other than maybe the odd comment. Uber and Tesla are two different companies and don't have much in common other than being in the business of getting people from place to place. One makes cars, one is a ridesharing company. As far as I know, they don't share tech and have no corporate connections. They both have their own, independent and unrelated systems for automated driving. They both have their own R&D departments.
  21. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Maniac Posts: 324   +199

    You really read into words the way you want to, huh? English reading fail. What I said: "It is comical you would try that." Anyone else have trouble reading the word "you"?

    You also failed to provide the statistics of autonomous car miles/fatalities. I guess it won't matter because you will probably quote numbers like Musk did - to make them appear safer when they aren't. Example:

    So, you are still comparing the tiny fraction of a fraction of autonomous car miles (thousands?) compared to the billions++ of daily miles of humans? You are playing a fake numbers game yet again. It is also comical that you would compare autonomous driving with drunk driving... Really?? Are they so bad we are comparing them to drunks? So please tell me again why these are on the roads? Please do share video of you personally trying to cross the road in front of one of these if you think they are so safe. Then have your parents and your kids do it. No? Then why are you shrugging your shoulders at these?

    The lack of concern from you and human life is quite scary.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2018
  22. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,851   +1,393

    Semantics, as I see it. In the context of the post that I replied to, Musk and Tesla have blown off responsibility to the driver in all cases - just like it appears that is happening here.
  23. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,851   +1,393

    I agree. Statistics can be bent in all kinds of ways - and they are being bent by supporters of autonomous vehicles in ways that support their cause.

    However, I do not think development should stop. If autonomous vehicles were available now to the general public, I would not buy one that has no manual override. Maybe at some point in the future when they have been proven safe, but not now.

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