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Pictured: Convicted armed robber behind wheel of self-driving Uber when it killed pedestrian

Nick Reilly
Contributor
Rafael Vasquez was at the wheel when the Uber hit Elaine Herzberg

This is the first photo of the driver who was behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber when it fatally ploughed down a pedestrian – with the mugshot taken when she previously served prison time for attempted armed robbery.

Rafaela Vasquez, 44, was hired to be the ‘safety driver’ of the automated Volvo when it crashed into Elaine Herzberg, 49, on Sunday in Tempe, Arizona.

Vasquez had two previous convictions when she was hired by Uber for its self driving trials in the area.

In 2001, she was handed a five year sentence for attempting to rob a Blockbuster store with an imitation firearm, but was later freed in 2004.

Vasquez claims that Herzberg, who had drug convictions, stepped out in front of her carrying multiple shopping bags but she had no time to stop.

Elaine Herzberg was homeless at the time of the incident

She was travelling at 40mph at the time of the incident, well within the 45mph speed limit that currently exists in Arizona.

Police chief Sylvia Moir, who initially believed Vasquez to be a man, said: ‘His [sic] first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.

’It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway.

Investigators examine the driverless Uber SUV that fatally struck a woman in Tempe, Arizona. (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

The accident has since prompted Uber to pull all of its self-driving cars in Arizona and in Pittsburgh and Toronto, where they are also being operated in test mode.  

At present, no charges have been brought against Vasquez and Uber has remained relatively silent, pointing to the ongoing criminal investigation.  

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