Authorities in Arizona have released dramatic dash cam footage showing the moments leading up to a self-driving Uber car’s fatal collision with a pedestrian.
The video released by Tempe police on Wednesday shows the car driving 38ph in a 45-mph zone along a relatively empty roadway last Sunday night.
A woman walking while rolling her bicycle suddenly appears in the headlights, with the footage cutting out a split second before impact.
The car does not appear to slow down before the crash, and police told the Phoenix New Times that neither the car nor the driver braked ‘significantly’ before impact.
The victim was later identified as Elaine Herzberg, 49.
In another frame, the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, is seen behind the wheel as the car rides on its own.
At the start of the footage, the pedestrian is not visible on the road, which is poorly lit
Seconds later, the pedestrian suddenly comes into view. The video released by Tempe police shows the car driving at what appears to be a reasonable speed along a relatively empty roadway
The clip stops just a split second before impact. The victim was later identified as Elaine Herzberg, 49
In the seconds leading up to the collision, Vasquez, the safety driver who must take control of the car if there are any problems, is seen looking down and to the side.
Seconds later, Vasquez grows alarmed when she realizes the car is about to hit the pedestrian.
The footage appears to back up Vasquez’s claims that she was alert during the ride and nothing she could have done would have prevented the fatal collision.
‘The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones,’ an Uber spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal.
‘Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can.’
Vasquez was supposed to act as a ‘safety driver’ and take control of the vehicle if anything went wrong.
She told police that Herzberg, who had spent time in prison for drug offenses, stepped out in front of her with a bicycle carrying multiple shopping bags and that she had no time to brake before it hit her.
She was traveling at 40 mph at the time, well within the 45 mph speed limit and insisted that she was alert but that nothing could have been done to stop the crash.
In another frame, the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, is seen behind the wheel as the car rides on its own
Her story was supported by footage from cameras fitted at the front and back of the Volvo SUV that Vasquez was in control of.
Earlier this week it was learned that Vasquez had run-ins with the law in years past, including an arrest and conviction for attempted armed robbery.
Vasquez had two felony convictions when she was hired by Uber for its self-driving car trials in the Phoenix, Arizona, area.
Her January 2001 conviction for attempted armed robbery led to a five-year sentence of which she served more than four years, being freed in November 2004.
Vasquez attempted to rob a Blockbuster video store with an imitation firearm.
At the same time, Vasquez was convicted of unsworn falsification committed in 1999, meaning she made a false statement to a public officials, and received a concurrent one year sentence.
At the time she was known as Rafael and identified as male. It is not known when she transitioned to female.
Vasquez (left) has two felony convictions from over a decade ago. The victim, Elaine Herzberg (right), 49, was homeless and had a string of drugs convictions when she was killed on Sunday night
At first, police wrongly described Vasquez as a man.
‘The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,’ said Sylvia Moir, the Tempe Police Chief.
‘His [sic] first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision,’ Moir told The San Francisco Chronicle on Monday.
‘It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway.’