Who is criminally responsible when a self-driven car fatally hits a pedestrian? Not the company that built and tested the car, at least not when it comes to Uber's fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona, last March, when Elaine Herzberg, 49, died.
Uber will not be charged with a crime, according to a letter, first reported by Quartz from the Yavapai County prosecutor, Sheila Polk, the prosecutor who was temporarily in charge of the case. "After a thorough review of all the evidence presented, this Office has determined that there is no basis for the criminal liability of the Uber corporation derived from this matter," the document says.
Originally, the case was being prosecuted by Arizona. Maricopa County, but that department was forced to temporarily turn it over to Yavapai County due to a possible conflict of interest. (Apparently, Uber helped sponsor the county's no-take and drive campaign). But now that local prosecutors have determined that Uber is not to blame, the case is being returned to Maricopa County. That is the main purpose of the letter.
Now, it will be Maricopa's responsibility to determine if Uber's safety driver, Rafaela Vásquez, should be charged with a crime instead. According to Tempe police, she was watching The Voice on Hulu for most of her shift, until the time of the accident.
But Yavapai County suggests they will need more evidence before charging her with a crime, which specifically indicates that the widely shared video of the fatal accident "probably does not accurately describe the events that occurred." They are suggesting Police find an expert to point out what a real person could have seen from the driver's seat, unlike the cameras and sensors of the car.
According to Reuters the NTSB and NHTSA are still investigating the case. They could still decide that Uber is to blame. A preliminary report from the NTSB in May mentioned that Uber had disabled one of the car's emergency braking features, but also that the self-driving system appeared to be functioning normally. That report did not assign any fault.
Uber stopped his self-driving tests completely after the fatal incident, but started again in Pittsburgh, very limited, last December. The company also reached an undisclosed settlement with Herzberg's family in March, but the family is also suing the city of Tempe for $ 10 million, alleging that a brick road encouraged her to cross the street at the accident site. although it was not like that. It is not properly designed or marked as a pedestrian crossing.