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Uber safety driver charged over fatal autonomous car crash

(Reuters) — The back-up safety driver behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber test vehicle that struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, in 2018 was charged with negligent homicide, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Rafael Vasquez, age 46, who is also known as Rafaela, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday after being charged in the death of Elaine Herzberg on Aug. 27, court records show. She was released pending trial set for February 2021.

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Herzberg died after she was struck while walking a bicycle across a street at night. The first recorded death involving a self-driving vehicle prompted significant safety concerns about the nascent autonomous vehicle industry.

Uber declined comment. A lawyer for Vasquez did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

A Tempe police report said Vasquez was repeatedly looking down instead of keeping her eyes on the road. Prosecutors in March 2019 said Uber was not criminally liable in the crash.

“Distracted driving is an issue of great importance in our community,” said Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel

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