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Backup Uber driver indicted for autonomous crash that killed pedestrian

Sept. 15 (UPI) -- A grand jury in Arizona indicted the human safety monitor of a self-driving Uber SUV that struck and killed a woman two years ago, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office said Tuesday.

The Maricopa County grand jury returned the indictment Aug. 27, but the court documents were just made public this week.

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Rafael "Rafaela" Vasquez, 46, faces one count of negligent homicide for the death of Elaine Herzberg on March 18, 2018.

Vasquez was the backup driver tasked with monitoring the self-driving Volvo SUV when the vehicle stuck Herzberg, a pedestrian, and killed her. A police report said Vasquez had been watching a TV show on her cellphone at the time of the crash.

"Distracted driving is an issue of great importance in our community," County Attorney Allister Adel said, announcing the indictment. "When a driver gets behind the wheel of a car, they have a responsibility to control and operate that vehicle safely and in a law-abiding manner."

Herzberg was walking a bicycle across the street outside of a crosswalk when she was hit.

"The car was in auto-drive," Vasquez said at the time. "All of a sudden ... the car didn't see it, I couldn't see it. I know I hit her."

Vasquez pleaded not guilty to the charges at an arraignment Tuesday.

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