Uber Technologies Inc. & other Self-driving Car Company Drivers Facing Potential Criminal Liability after Pedestrians Purportedly Struck & Killed by Self-driving Cars

March 21, 2019 | By admin | Filed in: Blog.

An Uber Technologies driver is reportedly facing criminal liability following a March 2018 crash in Tempe, Arizona, according to reports from Yavapai County, Arizona.

Said crash allegedly involved a Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicle which Uber was using to test self-driving technology, and the fatal accident was seen as a setback from which the company  is still looking to overcome. Uber’s autonomous vehicle testing allegedly remains dramatically reduced, according to reports.

The Yavapai County Attorney made a public statement that there was no basis for criminal liability for Uber, but also made statements that the back-up driver, Rafaela Vasquez, should be referred to the Tempe police for additional investigation.

Vasquez, the aforementioned Uber back-up driver, might possibly face charges of vehicular manslaughter, according to an Arizona police report. Vasquez has thus made no public statements.

Vasquez was allegedly looking down and streaming an episode of the television show The Voice on a phone until about the time of the crash, according to video taken from inside the car, and from records collected from online entertainment streaming service Hulu and other evidence, police on the case have stated. The driver allegedly looked up a half-second before hitting Elaine Herzberg, 49, who reportedly died from her injuries.

Police have reportedly labeled the case as entirely avoidable. Yavapai County Attorney’s Office examined the case at the request of Maricopa County where the accident occurred, and did not officially explain the reasoning for not finding criminal liability against Uber.

Uber Ruling to Have Ripple Effects as More Autonomous Vehicle Outfits Have Temporarily Stopped Their Testing

The incident has also had ripple effects in the industry and on the road. It has been seen as a shot to the entire autonomous vehicle industry and motivated other companies to temporarily stop their testing. There have been more and more calls to pass legislation for this new technology which presents potentially fatal risks but has only scant oversight from federal and state regulators.

Prosecutors in the case have made the decision not to pursue criminal charges which relieves the ride-hailing company of potentially huge problems as the company’s executives attempt to bring a resolution to a long list of federal investigations, lawsuits and other legal risks ahead of what promised to be one of the most-anticipated IPO’s of 2019.

Uber, which last year lost about $3.3 billion, filed confidentially in December for an initial public offering and is expected to seek a valuation of up to $120 billion. Its self-driving program costs hundreds of millions of dollars and does not generate revenue yet, and is very likely to come under scrutiny from investors.

In a separate incident, a Tesla Model 3 owner died in a March 2019 tragic accident with a semi truck. The Model 3 went under the truck’s trailer resulting in the roof being sheared off as it passed underneath, which is known as a side underride accident. The events of the crash are extremely similar to the infamous 2016 fatal Autopilot crash. The accident is still under investigation and Autopilot has allegedly not been ruled out.

Investors and motorists must keep an eye open for upcoming news in the world of self-driving automobiles.


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