An Uber driver in a self-driving car was streaming television until moments before the vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian, according to police.

Rafaela Vasquez repeatedly looked down instead of at the road prior to the collision in Tempe, Arizona, a report from the Tempe police department stated.

It suggested the driver was distracted and streaming talent show The Voice on her phone around the time of the “avoidable” accident in March.

Her face “appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down,” a review video from inside the car showed, according to police.

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Police at the crash scene in Arizona
Police at the crash scene in Arizona

She glanced up just half a second before the vehicle knocked down Elaine Herzberg, 49, who was crossing the street at night.

Ms Herzberg, who had been walking her bike, died from her injuries in hospital.

The driverless Volvo car was travelling at 44mph at the time.

Vasquez could face charges of vehicle manslaughter.

Police also said that the crash was “deemed entirely avoidable” if Vasquez had been paying attention while the car was operating autonomously.

They obtained records from Hulu – an online service for streaming television shows and movies – which revealed Vasquez’s account was playing The Voice for around 42 minutes on the night of the crash.

The vehicle following the crash
The vehicle following the crash

It streamed the show up until 9.59pm, which “coincides with the approximate time of the collision,” the report added.

It is not yet clear if Vasquez will be charged – though police submitted their findings to county prosecutors who will make the determination.

An Uber spokeswoman announced the company was undergoing a “top-to-bottom safety review” last month.

The company prohibits the use of any mobile device by safety drivers while the self-driving cars are on a public road.

Drivers are told they can be fired for violating this rule.

Following the crash, Uber has dealt with a major setback in its aim to develop self-driving cars.

It resulted in the company closing its autonomous car testing programme in Arizona, but it says it plans to begin testing elsewhere this summer.


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