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Review finds no basis for criminal charges against Uber in Tempe fatality

PHOENIX – Yavapai County Attorney’s Office found no reason to press criminal charges against Uber over last year’s accident in which a self-driving vehicle hit and killed a woman in Tempe.

The YCAO reviewed the case for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which had a conflict of interest over a previous working relationship with the ride-hailing service.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Sullivan Polk announced the decision in a letter to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery that was made available to the media.

“After a very thorough review of all the evidence presented, this Office has determined that there is no basis for criminal liability for the Uber corporation arising from this matter,” the letter said.

A self-driving SUV in Uber’s test fleet struck Elaine Herzberg, 49, while she was crossing Mill Avenue near Curry Road on March 18.

A test driver was in the vehicle, but it was operating in autonomous mode.

A Tempe police report released in June found that the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, was watching a TV show on her phone at the time of the accident.

Since YCAO was involved in the case only due to the MCAO’s relationship with Uber, Polk didn’t make any recommendations about possible charges against Vasquez.

“Because this determination eliminates the basis for the MCAO conflict, we are returning the matter to MCAO for further review for criminal charges,” the letter said.

The letter added that video of the incident “likely does not accurately depict the events that occurred” and suggested “expert analysis of the video is needed.”

Uber ended its national test program after the accident but has since restarted operations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In February, Herzberg’s family filed a $10 million complaint against Tempe for allegedly failing to make the area of the accident safe for pedestrians.

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