Uber backup driver charged with negligent homicide

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Back in 2018 an autonomous vehicle operated by Uber struck Elaine Herzberg as she was crossing a road, resulting in her death.

Last year a prosecutor from Arizona (where the incident took place) said that Uber would not face criminal charges for the incident.

The driver however wouldn’t be so lucky.

In a report from AP News it’s revealed that the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, was charged with negligent homicide on 27th August this year.

Following the incident in 2018 it was discovered that Vasquez was watching The Voice on her mobile phone when the incident occurred.

While we can’t argue that Vasquez should’ve been watching the road, the fact that Uber has skirted liability here is incredulous.

That’s not to say Uber got off scot-free, it settled with Herzberg’s family out of court but it now seems as if the weight of the incident is being placed on the driver’s shoulders.

Referring back to the AP News report, the National Transportation Safety Board found that contributing factors which led to the incident included inadequate safety procedures and oversight of drivers on the part of Uber, Herzberg’s decision to cross a street without using a crosswalk and the Arizona Department of Transportation’s lack of oversight as regards autonomous vehicle testing.

“The board also concluded Uber’s de-activation of its automatic emergency braking system increased the risks associated with testing automated vehicles on public roads. Instead of the system, Uber relied on the human backup driver to intervene,” adds AP News.

According a law firm in Arizona, negligent homicide can carry a one year minimum prison sentence and up to a 3.75 year maximum sentence.

With that in mind it really does seem as if Uber got off lightly here. Yes, the driver is at fault but the fact that Uber hasn’t been punished aside from settling out of court for an undisclosed figure for the death of a human is leaving a very sour taste in our mouth.

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.