Uber’s Self-Driving Backup Driver Charged Following Fatal 2018 Crash

For those who haven’t had a close eye on the autonomous driving community, ...

For those who haven’t had a close eye on the autonomous driving community, there has been quite a debate stirring.

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The main question of this debate is if somebody should be responsible if an autonomous car hits a person or creates some other sort of damage. Generally, even if something is an accident that results in a death, some sort of charge will be levied.

So, where on the spectrum would self-driving cars running over pedestrians fall? Is it the driver’s fault? Does the fault trace back to the people who made the car because it should be expected to predict these things?

There are all sorts of gray areas here and it’s going to be a long time before we can finally get them all sorted out. However, as this issue has unfortunately come up, some court cases might be setting the precedent. Right now, all eyes in the industry are on Arizona.

Back in 2018, a self-driving Uber ran over a pedestrian, directly causing the death of Elaine Herzberg.

The person behind the wheel, Rafaela Vasquez, was allegedly watching an episode of the TV show, The Voice, when the incident occurred.

Two years later, Vazquez has been met with charges to which she has since pled “Not guilty.”

The charges will be filed under “negligent homicide.” In other words, negligent homicide would allude to the idea that Vazquez should have been paying attention even though she didn’t intentionally kill Herzberg. We’re no lawyers and there is certainly more nuance than that but this gives us an idea of how the law will proceed with such a case.

According to The Verge, “Elaine Herzberg, is believed to be the first fatal collision involving a self-driving car. Investigators have said the car saw Herzberg, but did not automatically stop, and that Vasquez did not brake until it was too late. The case has raised important questions about how to safely test the new technology, and who should be held responsible when something goes wrong.”

While the NTSB has cited Uber for some safety concerns including ineffective monitoring of backup drivers, they will not be criminally charged.

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