By Jonathan Sperling
June 22, 2018

The driver behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber that struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Ariz. was distracted by a television show streaming on her phone at the time of the crash, according to a police report.

The Tempe Police Department released a 318-page report on Thursday alleging that the vehicle’s driver, Rafaela Vasquez, was looking down and not at the road until just 0.5 seconds before the March 18 crash, which killed Elaine Herzberg, 49, as she attempted to cross the street.

After obtaining records from the online video streaming service Hulu, police determined that Vasquez’s account was streaming NBC talent show The Voice for approximately 42 minutes before the crash. Video inside the car showed that while Vasquez was looking down, she appeared to “react and show a smirk or laugh at various points.”

The account stopped playing the show at 9:59 p.m., which “coincides with the approximate time of the collision,” according to the report, adding Vasquez could be hit with vehicular manslaughter charges.

The car, a Volvo SUV, was in autonomous mode when the crash occurred. But Uber always requires that self-driving vehicles have backup drivers on hand in case the autonomous system fails.

In the aftermath of the crash, Uber halted its autonomous car operations in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto.

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