The Tempe Police Department has released the first footage of this week’s fatal crash involving a self-driving Uber. Two angles of the crash — one facing out at the road, and one facing in at the Uber safety driver — were compiled into a 22-second video that was released on the Tempe Police’s Twitter account Wednesday night. In both angles, the footage stops just before the car strikes and kills pedestrian 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg.
In the camera angle that faces inward, the Uber safety driver can be seen looking down for several seconds in the moments before the crash. The driver, 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, reportedly told Tempe Police chief Sylvia Moir that “it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” and that “the first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.” Vasquez can be seen looking back up at the road just before the car strikes Herzberg.
“The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones,” a spokesperson for Uber said in a statement to The Verge. “Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can.”
Police had previously said that the Uber did not slow down before it struck Herzberg, something the footage appears to confirm. We also now know that Herzberg was crossing the street from the median to the sidewalk on the right with her bicycle.
Otherwise, the video of the crash amplifies questions that were already being asked about the current state of self-driving tests being performed around the country, and the technology in general. And it sparks new questions as well. For instance, the car is equipped with sensors that should have been able to spot Herzberg in the middle of the street, but it appears that she either wasn’t recognized by the Uber’s autonomous system, or that she was, and something went wrong in the process of applying the brakes.
It’s also unclear why Vasquez’s eyes left the road, but we don’t know what Uber’s policies are for safety drivers in the first place, and whether or not that was some kind of violation of them. What’s more, it’s hard to say with any certainty from these two angles whether Vasquez could have intervened in time to stop the car to begin with.