Tempe PD releases video of moments before self-driving Uber hit, killed pedestrian

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(Source: Uber via Tempe Police Dept.) (Source: Uber via Tempe Police Dept.)
(Source: Uber via Tempe Police Dept.) (Source: Uber via Tempe Police Dept.)
(Source: NTSB) (Source: NTSB)
(Source: Matt Barcelo) (Source: Matt Barcelo)
(Source: Uber via Tempe Police Dept.) (Source: Uber via Tempe Police Dept.)

The Tempe Police Department just released video from a self-driving Uber SUV that hit and killed a pedestrian earlier this week.

It happened Sunday night mid-block on Mill Avenue south of Curry Road.

Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking her bike across the street when the self-driving SUV hit her. Police said early indications are that the SUV was going about 40 mph.

There was an operator in the driver’s seat, but the vehicle was in autonomous mode.

The 21.8-second video clip stops short of showing the impact and contains views from an exterior camera and an interior one.

[WATCH: Video of moments before fatal wreck]

[SLOW MOTION: Exterior view slowed to half-speed]

The first part shows Herzberg well into the traffic lanes as the self-driving SUV approached her. It was very dark in the area and SUV's headlights did not illuminate her until seconds before the vehicle hit her.

"As soon as she walked into the lane of traffic, she was struck by the vehicle," Sgt. Ronald Elcock of the Tempe Police Department said in a news conference Monday afternoon. "Our investigation did not show, at this time, that there were significant signs of the vehicle slowing down."

The question everyone is asking is this: Was there enough time for the vehicle to stop or take evasive action?

The second part of the video released by the Tempe Police Department shows the operator behind the wheel – 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez – looking down, possibly at a mobile device, in the moments leading up to the crash. In the very last frames of the released video, literally the last fraction of a second, it looks like  Vasquez saw Herzberg.

"The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones," an Uber spokesman said Wednesday. "Our cars remain grounded, and we're assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can."

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team out to investigate the crash, which is believed to be the first pedestrian fatality involving a self-driving vehicle.

The agency’s media relations department tweeted a photo of investigators looking at the front-end damage to the SUV.

At this point, it’s not clear if any charges will be filed in connection with the crash. That will be up to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

It’s also not clear what impact this crash – the first of its kind – will have on the future of self-driving vehicles.


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