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Uber could face criminal charges following fatal crash of self driving vehicle in Arizona

March 20, 2018  |  Posted by: Michael Falzarano
Uber could face criminal charges following fatal crash of self driving vehicle in Arizona

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New rules enacted earlier this month by Arizona governor Doug Ducey could result in criminal charges against Uber following Monday night’s fatal crash in Tempe, in which a self-driving vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian.

Hundreds of automated driving vehicles have been introduced on Arizona roads after Ducey utilized the state’s light regulations to lure Uber to Arizona.

The Republican governor solicited Uber to Arizona after the ride-sharing company encountered a tenuous rollout of test cars in neighboring California.

However, an executive order signed by Ducey on March 1st, implemented a licensing system with detailed rules for self-driving systems which hold companies responsible if the automated vehicles negligently resulted in a loss of life during testing.

According to the Phoenix Times, the new rules mean Uber could be held criminally liable in the same manner as an individual.

Tempe Police spokesman Ronald Elcock said an Uber self-driving Volvo SUV that struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was engaged in autonomous mode with a human backup operator behind the wheel Monday evening.

EEelock said the backup operator identified as 44-year-old Rafael Vasquez “was cooperative and there was no impairment shown.”

Investigators have reviewed dashcam video from the car to determine if Herzberg’s death was the result of negligence.

Police said the woman was walking outside the crosswalk when she was struck by the car.

State law gives vehicles the right of way when pedestrians are crossing outside of a designated crosswalk.

Erlock said the self-driving vehicle was traveling 40 miles per hour, 5 miles below the legal speed limit when the fatal accident occurred.

“If there’s availability to do it, please use the crosswalks,” Elcock emplored during a news conference.

Officials said “mid-street crossing is commonplace” on the roadway.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will decide whether to pursue criminal charges in Herzberg’s death.

The Uber crash killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed sympathies on his Twitter account and said the company was fully cooperating with the investigation.

Additionally, company Spokeswoman Stephanie Sedlak announced late Monday the postponement of Thursday’s showcase of its self-driving vehicles at Uber’s Tempe facility.

The Tempe crash isn’t the first involving an Uber self-driving vehicle.

An Uber SUV flipped onto its side, also in Tempe in March 2017. No injuries were reported in the accident.

Police cited the driver of the other car for a traffic violation.

In 2016, a Florida man behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S was killed when his vehicle, operating on its Autopilot system, crashed into a tractor-trailer.

The NTSB report blamed driver inattention for the fatal crash but maintained that design constraints with the system was also a determining factor in the accident.

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