Uber won’t be charged in the fatal self-driving crash that killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona last year, as reported by The Verge.
In a letter first reported by Quartz, Yavapai county attorney Sheila Sullivan Polk wrote, “After a very thorough review of all the evidence presented, this Office has determined that there is no basis for criminal liability for the Uber corporation arising from this matter.”
The letter also stated that the “collision video, as it displays, likely does not accurately depict the events that occurred.” Although the letter doesn’t elaborate any further on that point, it suggests the Tempe police should pursue an expert analysis of the video.
According to the letter, the analysis will show what the driver should’ve seen at the time of the accident, including given vehicle speed, lighting conditions, and other factors.
Herzberg is the first person killed by a self-driving vehicle, according to The Verge’s report last year. This case has been closely watched, because it can set a precedent on who is criminally liable when self-driving accidents occur.
The case was first prosecuted by Arizona’s Maricopa County, but they temporarily gave it to Yavapai County after a potential conflict of interest since Uber sponsored the county’s don’t-drink-and-drive campaign. Now, the letter says the case can be given back to Maricopa County.
Maricopa County can look at charging the Uber’s backup safety driver, Rafaela Vasquez. In June 2018, a police report said Vasquez was watching a show on her phone until the time of the crash, Reuters reported. The police also called the accident “entirely avoidable.”
However, as Yavapai County’s letter suggests, there probably isn’t enough evidence to charge Vasquez — hence, the need to bring in expert video analysis.
Uber isn’t totally in the clear, though. Last December, an Uber manager sent executives an email warning them about safety issues in self-driving vehicles, as TechCrunch reported. That e-mail was sent less than a week before Herzberg was killed.
The accident is still being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Reuters reported. They can still find Uber to be at fault.