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Cops say Uber self-driving car ‘not likely’ at fault for pedestrian death

The Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona earlier this week was ‘unlikely’ to be at fault, one local police officer says.

The Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle the collision with 49 year old Elaine Herzberg would have been difficult to avoid.

Chief Moir said the victim ‘came from the shadows into the roadway’ making it hard to avoid regardless of who or what was controlling the car. Interestingly, she says the back-up driver may still face charges.

She said (via The Verge): “I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident. I won’t rule out the potential to file charges against the [backup driver] in the Uber vehicle.

“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”

“It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode [autonomous or human-driven] based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway.”

‘No sign of slowing’

The comments come as it emerged the vehicle showed ‘no signs of slowing’ prior to the collision and may have been travelling over the speed limit at the time of the collision.

The car was clocked at 38mph, but there’s confusion over whether the speed limit on the street is 35mph or 45mph.

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Since Moir’s comments, the local police department issued a statement saying: “Tempe Police Department does not determine fault in vehicular collisions.”

The local law enforcement agency is unlikely to be the eventual arbiter when determining Uber’s role in the tragedy. The National Transport Safety Board is conducting its own investigation into the incident.

This may have wider-ranging implications on how Uber and other companies in the space can test their self-driving cars.

Second chance policy

The plot thickened further on Tuesday as it emerged the back up driver 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez spent four years in jail following a conviction for attempted armed robbery.

An AZ Central report says: “The operator behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber vehicle that hit and killed a 49-year-old woman in Tempe Sunday night had served almost four years in an Arizona prison in the early 2000s on an attempted armed robbery conviction.”

An Uber spokesperson said: “Vehicle operators in Arizona undergo a screening process that checks local, state and national databases and meets local requirements by law. The vehicle operator met these requirements.”

Uber touts a second chance policy when hiring those who’ve made ‘mistakes.’

Would you trust a self-driving Uber to keep you safe? Let us know @TrustedReviews on Twitter.

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