Uber probably was not to blame for the deadly accident of his auto-driving vehicle in Arizona on Sunday night, Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle in a surprising interview the next day. His comments have caused a stir in this investigation, which is characterized as the first human being killed by an autonomous vehicle.
"I suspect that it appears that the Uber is probably not guilty in this accident," Moir told the Chronicle, adding, "I will not rule out the potential to file charges against [backup driver] on the Uber vehicle."
"I suspect that it seems that the Uber probably is not at fault in this accident."
The accident occurred near Mill Avenue and Curry Road late on Sunday in Tempe, Arizona. The Uber vehicle was heading north when a woman, identified as Elaine Herzberg, 49, was hit while pushing a bicycle across the street. Herzberg was taken to the hospital, where she later died of her injuries.
The vehicle was traveling at 38 mph, although it is not clear if it was above or below the speed limit. (Police said the speed limit was 35 mph, but a Google Street View shot of the road taken last July shows a speed limit of 45 mph along that stretch of road). The driver, Rafaela Vásquez, 44, told the police.
Police have seen images of two of the vehicle's cameras, one facing the street, and the other inside the car facing the driver. Based on the footage, Moir said the driver had little time to react. "The driver said it was like a flash, the person came out in front of them," he said. "His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision."
He added: "It is very clear that it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of way [autonomous or human-driven] depending on how she came from the shadows to the road."
Defenders of safe streets rushed to denounce Moir's comments as deaf, inappropriate and possibly uninformed. Since then, the Tempe Police Department has withdrawn part of it and issued a statement that states: "The Tempe Police Department does not determine the failure of vehicle collisions."
Great job for Carolyn Said to get those quotes from the chief of police. Deaf tone (failure of the victim), suspicious (jumped out of nowhere) and inappropriate (should have walked to xwalk, can cite the driver), clearly caused a stir. Now PD is backing the statements of the boss .- Autonomous Law (@SafeSelfDrive) March 20, 2018
Moir's comments seem to contradict Arizona's recently updated rules governing the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. The executive order, issued by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in March, stipulates that a company is liable if one of its driverless cars negligently kills a person. The corporation that operates the vehicles would be responsible, says the governor's office, and the company could be held criminally liable as a person.
Tempe police are collaborating with the US National Traffic Safety Board. UU On the research. The Maricopa County attorney will be responsible for filing any charges upon completion of the police department investigation.
Moir also blamed Herzberg for crossing the street in front of a pedestrian crossing. "It's dangerous to cross the roads in the afternoon when there are well-lit and managed pedestrian corridors available," he said.
But others noticed that the design of the street where Herzberg was hit was probably sending pedestrians a mixed message. It has an attractive footpath paved with bricks through the median, in addition to a sign that warns pedestrians not to use it.
A very strange aspect of this site of the accident is that it occurred in a place where a beautiful brick paved diagonal path was provided through the median, along with a sign that told people not to use it. This goes beyond the design hostile to pedestrians; It's a damn close binge. pic.twitter.com/ZaHw9bIIrR- (@EricPaulDennis) March 20, 2018
Tempe police plan another press conference on Tuesday to provide an update on the investigation. Meanwhile, the driver of the self-taught Uber is now under scrutiny, as AZ Central reports today that Vásquez was imprisoned for nearly four years in an Arizona prison in the early 2000s for an attempted conviction of armed robbery. The newspaper reports:
Court records show that Vásquez has a criminal record in Arizona with a different legal name. […] Records from the Arizona Department of Corrections show that Vasquez served three years and 10 months in state prison for convictions for attempted robbery and unsworn falsification. She was released from prison in 2005.
A spokesperson for Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but declined to comment on AZ Central's story, citing an ongoing investigation.