Last year, an autonomous Uber being tested hit and killed a pedestrian in the US. Now, the county in charge of prosecution has decided that Uber will not be criminally charged in relation to the death.
49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was crossing a street in Tempe, Arizona when she was hit by the Uber in March of 2018. While the vehicle was being run in its autonomous setting, there was a backup driver inside it at the time. According to a letter obtained by Quartz, Yavapai County attorney, Sheila Polk, says the company will not be held criminally responsible.
“After a very thorough review of all the evidence presented, this Office has determined that there is no basis for criminal liability for the Uber corporation arising from this matter,” it reads. You can see the document in its entirety right here.
Arizona’s Maricopa County was actually looking after the case originally, but it was given to the Yavapai County due to a conflict of interest surrounding an anti-drink driving campaign Uber sponsored. The matter has since been handed back Maricopa, who will need to determine whether the supervising driver is responsible for the death.
Rafaela Vasquez was in the vehicle at the time and was meant to take the wheel in the event of an emergency or if the car just straight-up failed. Tempe police say she was watching The Voice on Hulu for almost her entire shift. Yavapai County says it’ll need more evidence for her to be charged, however.
Uber’s not out of the water just yet, though, as the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are still investigating the matter and could still decide that the company is liable. They’ll be looking at factors like the car’s emergency braking system, which one report says was actually disabled at the time.
Whatever the outcome, it’ll set an interesting precedent for fatalities involving autonomous vehicles moving forward.
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