The Arizona woman allegedly behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber that fatally struck a homeless woman Sunday night reportedly served four years in prison for armed robbery.
The Arizona Republic reported that the vehicle was in autonomous mode when it struck Elaine Herzberg, 49, (pictured right) as she walked her bike down a four-lane road in Phoenix. Court papers stated that Rafaela Vasquez, 44, (pictured left) was the designated operator at the time of the crash.
Court records obtained by the newspaper indicated that Vasquez had a criminal record in Arizona under a different name. Specifically, Vasquez reportedly served three years and 10 months in a state prison for attempted armed robbery and unsworn falsification. She was released in 2005.
According to the Evening Standard, local police said the Volvo was traveling at 40 mph when the accident occurred. Preliminary evidence suggests that the fatal collision might’ve been unavoidable.
“It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir commented
“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them. His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”
Tempe police spokesman Seargent Ronald Elcock said they don’t believe Vasquez or Herzberg were impaired Sunday night. Police also have no indication that the vehicle slowed down as it approached Herzberg, he said.
To pass a background check, Uber says drivers can’t have a conviction for a felony, violent crime or sexual offense within the last seven years. The company has reportedly declined to explain how Vasquez would be hired.
“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family,” an Uber spokesperson told the Evening Standard. “We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.”
[Featured Image: Rafaela Vasquez/Maricopa County; Elaine Herzberg/Facebook]