Back-Up Driver of Autonomous Vehicle Charged With Negligent Homicide of Pedestrian

The broader safety implications of the death of Elaine Hertzberg after being struck by an Uber autonomous vehicle in Tempe is still being litigated. Last week, the back-up driver of the vehicle was charged with negligent homicide.

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September 21, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


"The driver behind the wheel of an autonomous Uber car that fatally struck an Arizona woman has been charged with negligent homicide," reports Laurel Wamsley. 

Rafaela Vasquez has pleaded not guilty to the crime of killing Elaine Herzberg in March 2018. The charges follow the results of an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, released last year, which "found that the probable cause of the crash was 'the failure of the vehicle operator to monitor the driving environment and the operation of the automated driving system because she was visually distracted throughout the trip by her personal cell phone,'" explains Wamsley.

According to a separate article by Kea Wilson, the indictment "is receiving poor reviews from street safety advocates because of its limited scope."

"Experts fear that by only holding the person behind the wheel accountable — rather than the employer who paid her to drive the car, the automaker who designed the dangerous vehicle, and the road designer who built the dangerous street where the crash occurred — justice won’t really be done," writes Wilson.

Planetizen correspondent Irvin Dawid wrote on the role of Uber and its Volvo autonomous vehicle technology in the fatal crash in March 2018.

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