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Tempe police release video of moments before autonomous Uber hit pedestrian

Police on March 21 released video footage taken moments before an autonomous Uber SUV hit and killed a 49-year-old pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz., on March 18. (Video: Tempe Police Dept.)

Tempe police on Wednesday released video footage taken just before an autonomous Uber SUV hit and killed a 49-year-old pedestrian.

The video shows what the car and its safety driver could see before the collision with the woman and also offers footage of the driver.

The safety driver, Rafaela Vasquez, appears to look down several times, including immediately before the Volvo comes upon Elaine Herzberg. The Uber employee is then shown with a sudden look of horror.

The video makes clear what was already generally known about the tragedy: that neither car nor driver reacted in a way that might have saved Herzberg. She was crossing midblock and is shown beginning to turn her head toward the oncoming car just as it closed in.

Uber did not answer questions about whether the car behaved as it was supposed to or whether Uber thinks its backup driver was paying proper attention.

The company issued a statement, saying,: “The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones. Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can.”

Tempe police said they did not release a view of “the collision itself due to the graphic nature of the impact.” The vehicular crimes unit is investigating, and the department anticipates “submitting the case for review to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office,” according to a police statement.

Experts pointed to additional questions raised by the video.