Police: Backup Driver in Fatal Autonomous Uber Crash Was Watching ‘The Voice’

PHOENIX — The human backup driver in an autonomous Uber SUV was streaming the television show “The Voice” on her phone and looking downward just before fatally striking a pedestrian in suburban Phoenix, according to a police report.

The 300-page report released Thursday night by police in Tempe revealed that driver Rafaela Vasquez had been streaming the musical talent show via Hulu in the 43 minutes before the March 18 crash that killed Elaine Herzberg as she crossed a darkened road outside the lines of a crosswalk. The report said the crash, which marks the first fatality involving a self-driving vehicle, wouldn’t have happened had the driver not been distracted.

Dash camera video shows Vasquez was looking down near her right knee for four or five seconds before the crash. She looked up a half second before striking Herzberg as the Volvo was traveling about 44 miles per hour. Vasquez told police Herzberg “came out of nowhere” and that she didn’t see her prior to the collision. But officers calculated that had Vasquez been paying attention, she could have reacted 143 feet before impact and brought the SUV to a stop about 42.6 feet before hitting Herzberg.

“This crash would not have occurred if Vasquez would have been monitoring the vehicle and roadway conditions and was not distracted,” the report stated.

Tempe police are looking at a vehicular manslaughter charge in the crash, according to a March 19 affidavit filed to get a search warrant for audio, video and data stored in the Uber SUV.

The detective seeking the warrant, identified as J. Barutha, wrote that based on information from the vehicular homicide unit, “it is believed that the crime of vehicular manslaughter has occurred and that evidence of this offense is currently located in a 2017 Grey Volvo XC-90.”

A previously released video of the crash showed Vasquez looking down just before the crash. She had a startled look on her face about the time of the impact.

The National Transportation Safety Board, in a preliminary report issued last month, said the autonomous driving system on Uber’s Volvo XC-90 SUV 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.

The system is disabled while Uber’s cars are under computer control, “to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior,” the NTSB report said. Instead of the system, Uber relies on …read more

Source:: Time – Business


Train from Alberta derails in Iowa leaking crude oil into floodwaters

DOON, Iowa — A freight train derailed in northwest Iowa on Friday, leaking crude oil from into flooded fields flanking the tracks and raising concerns about the possible contamination of residential water supplies downstream, officials said.

BNSF railroad spokesman Andy Williams said no one was injured when 33 oil tanker cars from Alberta, Canada, derailed around 4:30 a.m. Friday just south of Doon in Lyon County. Some of the tankers were compromised, causing the oil to leak into floodwaters and eventually into the rain-swollen Little Rock River, but officials didn’t have an exact number of tankers that leaked oil by late Friday afternoon, Williams said.

BNSF had hazardous materials and environmental experts on the scene and had begun cleanup within hours of the derailment, Williams said.

“We are containing the oil that was spilled as close to the incident as possible using containment booms and recovering it with skimmers and vacuum trucks,” he said.

Williams said he did not immediately know the train’s destination.

Lyon County Sheriff Steward Vander Stoep said between 30 and 40 semitrailers containing cleanup equipment had arrived at the scene near Doon, Iowa, by Friday afternoon.

Officials at the scene agreed that floodwater from the swollen Little Rock River played a part in causing the cars to leave the tracks, but said they weren’t yet sure whether the waters compromised the track, physically pushed the cars off it or played a part in some other way. The river rose rapidly Wednesday after 5 to 7 inches (13 to 18 centimetres) of rain fell Wednesday and a further downpour on Thursday.

Tank cars carrying crude oil are shown derailed about a mile south of Doon, Iowa, Friday, June 22, 2018. About 31 cars derailed after the tracks reportedly collapsed due to saturation from flood waters from adjacent Little Rock River. (Tim Hynds/Sioux City Journal via AP)

A broadening sheen of oil spread near several of the tankers, which had piled up across the track and earthen berm, some submerged in the water.

Vander Stoep said that drinking water in Doon and the immediate area didn’t seem to be in danger of contamination.

But news of the spill was enough to prompt officials in Rock Valley, a small city about 5 miles (8.05 kilometres) southwest of the derailment, to shut off all the city’s drinking water wells. The water towers also will be drained as a precaution, said Rock Valley public information officer Travis Olson. In the meantime, …read more

Source:: Edmonton Journal – Business


From Peru to Provo, local man shapes wood without the use of sight

PROVO — Life is all about perception. For Nick Rios, a storage unit can be whatever you make of it.

Situated not far from an exit off the interstate, Rios is hard at work cutting and sanding bits of wood, while an extension cord snakes its way out of the open metal door of his shed. His girlfriend, Susana Fragoso, laughs as she remembers the early days of their relationship.

“For a long time, he kept introducing me as his friend, and I’m like, ‘Really!'” she said.

Surrounded by bits of ash and cedar, the two are building a business, one piece at a time.

“Happy for maintain busy my mind, no?” said Rios.

He apologizes for the state of his English, though he makes perfect sense. Rios immigrated from Peru, where he worked in information technology. He says he had a lot of practice reading English, but not much when it came to speaking it.

“In the past, I am reading English,” he said. “Working in computer science, all books in English, in my country. Listen music, in English. But no speaking in my country.”

He says there weren’t many opportunities in Peru, and he was allowed to move to America, in search of a better life for his daughter and his “grandchildren in the future.”

Woodworking had never even entered his mind. He’d been working at a machine shop, when his supervisor said his work wasn’t up to snuff.

“My job no good,” Rios said, thinking back on a conversation he had with his boss. “‘Hey, what happened?’ ‘I don’t know!’ ‘In the past, you do job is very good, but right now, more mistake!'”

Rios went to a doctor and was referred to a specialist, who delivered some devastating news.

“‘I’m sorry, man,'” Rios said, remembering the words he heard. ‘”This problem is a 1 million one. Your problem may be in 10 years, you completely blind.'”

Rios was diagnosed with what’s called “genetic retinitis pigmentosa.” He’s now almost completely blind. He says he began to cry, and entered a deep depression. Rios says he’d been determined to build a new life in America, but even his studies of English began to suffer.

“My frustrations made it very hard for me,” he said. “Not working, inside my apartment, I can’t learn English from talking to the wall, talking to the door, talking to the floor.”

“For 10 years, he was very depressed, he was really angry that this was happening to …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News