Uber operator was watching `The Voice' before fatal self-driving crash

Uber safety driver was watching TV moments before fatal collision

Included in a massive Tempe Police Department report this week were details about the March 18 fatal crash. Well, it turns out that the backup driver was distracted as she repeatedly looked down to her smartphone which was streaming an American talent show on Hulu in the run-up to the deadly collision.

Vasquez was looking away from the road for long stretches in the time before the crash, according to an internal video showing her that was released by police. Herzberg was not walking in a designated crosswalk. Given the findings in this latest report, the likelihood of vehicular manslaughter charges against Vasquez has certainly increased. Police said the crash was "deemed entirely avoidable" if Vasquez had been paying attention. The safety driver's Hulu records were obtained by the police, which showed the driver's account was playing The Voice for about 42 minutes and ending at 9:59 p.m., which "coincides with the approximate time of the collision", according to the report.

According to the police report, Vasquez was distracted in this way for seven of the almost 22-minutes just prior to the collision. It was the first fatal crash involving a self-driving vehicle. Despite this new information surrounding the tragedy, officials are still deciding whether or not they will charge the driver.

Authorities also noted the self-driving Uber didn't alert operators of when to take control of the auto.

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Uber's self-driving Volvo SUV was travelling at around 70 kilometres per hour. The Volvo came to Uber with a collision avoidance system that automatically brakes in emergencies, but Uber's vehicles are programmed to turn off that system when the auto is in autonomous mode. Vasquez manually hit the brakes after hitting the woman.

The incident led Uber to pull its fleet of self-driving cars off the streets of Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

In addition to the report, police released a slew of audio files of 911 calls made by Vasquez, who waited at the scene for police, and bystanders; photographs of Herzberg's damaged bicycle and the Uber vehicle; and videos from police officers' body cameras that capture the minutes after the crash, including harrowing screams in the background.

In fact, the investigation revealed, Vasquez was looking down for 31 percent of the 21 minutes and 48 seconds before the crash, the report states. Video recordings don't show what she's doing with her hands.

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County Attorney Bill Montgomery had the case transferred to the Yavapai County Attorney's Office to avoid any conflicts of interest.

In a statement issued to The Verge, an Uber spokesperson said the company prohibits its autonomous vehicle operators from using mobile devices while working.

At the time of the accident, Vasquez had both business and personal phones in the auto. Her job was to look at the road and prepare for any emergencies, Uber confirmed.

The report said that Vasquez was looking down at her phone seven of the 22 minutes prior to crash.

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NTSB investigators asked Vasquez about her downward glances in a post-crash interview.

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