Safety driver pleads guilty in relation to driverless death

The woman acting as safety driver in an autonomous Uber involved in the first pedestrian fatality involving a driverless car has pleaded guilty to endangerment related to the case.

Rafaela Vasquez was behind the wheel of the Uber when it struck and killed a pedestrian wheeling her bicycle across a road in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, in March 2018.

The website Business Insider reports she had been charged with negligent homicide after investigators said she had been watching a video on her phone at the time of the crash and didn’t brake in time, Insider previously reported. The guilty plea to endangerment means she avoids a prison sentence, and will serve three years of supervised probation.

The Uber system detected the victim 5.6 seconds before the crash but failed to determine that she was a bicyclist or that she was headed into the vehicle’s path.

“The defendant in this matter was responsible for the operation of a vehicle on our city streets that ended with a woman being killed,” stated Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell. “Determining an appropriate plea in this case involved considering a multitude of factors. We believe the Judge ordered an appropriate sentence based on the mitigating and aggravating factors.”

Mitchell went on to say, “Getting behind the wheel of a car is a serious responsibility. Regardless of whatever technology might be available to drivers, safety for everyone on the street and in the vehicle must always be a driver’s first priority.”

(Picture – US National Transportation Safety Board)


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