Uber Cleared Over Arizona Pedestrian’s Self-Driving Car Death

March 6, 2019, 12:15 PM UTC

Uber has been cleared of criminal liability over the death last year of pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona.

Herzberg had been walking her bicycle across the road when she was struck by an Uber self-driving car, which was undergoing testing—the company settled with Herzberg’s family and shuttered its testing program in Arizona soon after the accident, the repercussions of which were felt across the nascent autonomous car industry.

Federal investigators found soon after that the car’s automated braking system had been disabled at the time of the collision to “reduce the potential for erratic behavior,” and it had been left to the vehicle’s operator to “intervene and take action.”

On Tuesday, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Sullivan Polk—who was handling the case on behalf of Maricopa Country—said in an open letter that there was “no basis for criminal liability” for Uber, but the police should further investigate the car’s back-up driver, Rafaela Vasquez, with the potential of criminal charges.

The police said last year that Vasquez had been watching an episode of The Voice on her phone just before the car struck Herzberg, looking up a half-second before the collision.

Polk said Maricopa Country should hire an expert to analyze the collision video to “closely match what (and when) the person sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle would or should have seen that night given the vehicle’s speed, lighting conditions, and other relevant factors.”

Uber declined to comment on Polk’s letter.

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