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Investigation into deadly Uber self-driving accident in Tempe still open

This image made from video Sunday, March 18, 2018, of a mounted camera provided by the Tempe Police Department shows an exterior view moments before an Uber SUV hit a woman in Tempe, Ariz. Video of a deadly self-driving vehicle crash in suburban Phoenix shows the pedestrian walking from a darkened area onto a street just moments before the crash. (Tempe Police Department via AP)

PHOENIX — The main prosecutor for Maricopa County has not closed the investigation on a deadly self-driving Uber accident, even after a third-party found no reason to hold the rideshare company criminally liable.

Attorney Bill Montgomery said the county attorney’s office has the rest of the case and is working with Tempe Police Department, after the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office reviewed the case to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest.

“We still have the option to review potential charges involving the driver [Rafaela Vasquez],” Montgomery told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Wednesday.

Vasquez was behind the wheel of the self-driving Uber vehicle when it struck Elaine Herzberg, 49, while she was crossing Mill Avenue near Curry Road on March 18, 2018.

Video released with a Tempe police report in June showed Vasquez was watching a TV show on her phone at the time of the accident.

Montgomery said investigators still need to “verify the video and match it to what the driver may have been able to perceive, or not, and what happened in terms of the collision of the bicyclist.

“In order to successfully charge the driver, we’ve got to be able to match that video to exactly what was happening at the time the collision occurred.”

The Tempe police report also found that the crash would not have occurred if Vasquez “would have been monitoring the vehicle and roadway conditions and was not distracted,” it read. Vasquez looked down for 31 percent of the nearly 22 minutes she was in the driver’s seat before the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a May 2018 preliminary report said the autonomous driving system spotted Herzberg about six seconds before hitting her, but did not stop because the system used to automatically apply brakes in potentially dangerous situations had been disabled.

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

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