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 the human backup driver to intervene, the report stated. But the system is not designed to alert the driver.

Uber pulled its self-driving cars out of Arizona the day before the NTSB report was released, eliminating the jobs of about 300 people who served as backup drivers and performed other jobs connected to the vehicles. The company had suspended testing of its self-driving vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto while regulators investigated the cause of the crash. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey prohibited Uber from continuing its tests of self-driving cars after Herzberg was run over.

Police initially determined that Vasquez was not impaired after giving her a field test.

Analysis of video taken from the vehicle shows Vasquez looked downward 204 times in the 11.8 miles traveled before the crash. While the SUV was in motion, Vasquez averted her eyes away from the roadway nearly a third of the time, according to the report.

“Sometimes, her face appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down,” the report said. “Her hands are not visible in the frame of the video during these times.”

Attempts by The Associated Press to contact Vasquez through email and phone numbers on Friday weren’t successful.

Cristina Perez Hesano, a lawyer for Herzberg’s daughter and husband, and Pat McGroder, an attorney representing Herzberg’s mother, father and son, declined to comment on the police report.

An Uber spokeswoman said in a prepared statement Friday morning that the company is cooperating with investigations while it does an internal safety review. “We have a strict policy prohibiting mobile device usage for anyone operating our self-driving vehicles. We plan to share more on the changes we’ll make to our program soon,” the statement said.

Use of a mobile device while an autonomous vehicle is moving is a fireable offense, and “this is emphasized on an ongoing basis,” the statement said.

After the crash, the ride-hailing company said it did a top-to-bottom safety evaluation, reviewing internal processes and safety culture. Uber also said it brought in former transportation safety board chairman Christopher Hart to advise the company on safety.

Both Vasquez and Uber could still face civil liability in the case, Uber for potentially negligent hiring, training and supervision, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who closely follows autonomous vehicles.

Vasquez could be charged criminally, and if there’s evidence that Uber or its employees acted recklessly, then charges against them are possible, Smith said. But charges against the company are not likely, he added.

“This should not have happened in so many ways and on so many levels,” Smith said. “This report, if true, makes things worse. And obviously it would not look good to a jury.”

Uber settled quickly with some of Herzberg’s family members but others have retained legal counsel.

The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office hasn’t set a deadline for deciding whether to bring charges, said Penny Cramer, assistant to County Attorney Sheila Polk. The prosecutorial agency declined to comment on the police report.

The case was handed to Polk’s office after the prosecutor’s office in metro Phoenix passed on the case, citing a potential conflict of interest. The agency in Phoenix had previously participated in a public-safety campaign with Uber.

On a body camera video the night of the crash, police gathered at the scene quickly realized that they were dealing with a big story because an autonomous vehicle was involved.

An officer who identifies himself as supervisor of the unit that investigates fatal crashes is seen asking a man who appears to be an Uber supervisor about getting video from the SUV and whether Uber’s lawyers have been contacted.

“You guys know as well as I know that this is going to be an international story,” the police supervisor says. “We want to make sure that we’re doing not only what we normally do and not doing anything different, but also making sure that everything’s above board and everything’s out in the open.”

The supervisor goes on to say that he’s going to communicate as honestly as he can. “I hope that you guys do the same because we’re going to be working together throughout this whole process from now, probably for months from now.”

Why Bringing Your Dog to Work Can Be Great for (Almost) Everyone

Anna Jentoft doesn’t go to work at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle alone.

Her one-year-old black labradoodle Franny is almost always by her side, sitting at Jentoft’s desk while she’s on calls and greeting other Amazon employees during their workdays.

Franny is one of more than 1,000 dogs at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters thanks to the company’s dog-friendly work policy. The retail giant is part of the 8 percent of workplaces in the U.S. that allow dogs to join their owners in the office, according to the Society of Human Resource Management. That’s a jump from 5 percent of employers in 2013.

“If I just need to take a breather after an intense meeting, I’ll take her out for a walk, or we’ll sit on the floor and play for a few minutes,” Jentoft said.

“It brings me comfort.”

Dogs in the workplace provide more social support for employees, as well as more opportunities for coworkers to interact in a positive setting, according to a number of studies. Social support, or that feeling of being cared for, also serves as “a key factor in whether people with serious mental illness return to work or remain employed,” according to a May 2017 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Logistically, too, employees who own dogs are able to avoid missing work to go home in the middle of the day to feed their dog or quickly return home at the end of the day, said Jennifer Fearing, the co-author of “Dogs at Work: A Practical Guide to Creating Dog-Friendly Workplaces.” These furry pets also could provide an opportunity for collaboration across departments, she said.

“You discover, when walking across the office to pet a cute dog, cross-pollination between your work,” she said. “You really wouldn’t have had the idea to work together, but because you struck up a conversation about the dog, you discover an opportunity that produces some synergy that wouldn’t have otherwise existed.”

Young woman petting dog at office desk
Frank van Delft—Getty Images/Cultura RF

Amazon points to the employee experience as the main consideration with its dog-friendly policy. Dogs have been central to Amazon’s workplace for about 20 years, with a Welsh corgi named Rufus even ceremoniously clicking the mouse to launch some of Amazon.com’s first pages, Allison Leader, a communications representative from Amazon, said. (One of the buildings on Amazon’s Seattle campus is named after Rufus.)

This extra benefit helped encourage Jentoft to get a dog in the first place. Now it’s a policy she would strongly value if considering other employment opportunities — at Amazon or elsewhere — in the future. “Now that I’ve had a taste of what it’s like, it would be hard for me to go somewhere where I can’t have her with me,” Jentoft said.

For employers, dog-friendly policies can be added to the list of workplace benefits made to attract and maintain talent, particularly in respect to millennials. “That helps attract and retain potentially top talent within your organization, so there’s essentially a bringing them through the door and keeping them in house aspect to instituting one of these policies that the employer can see the increased benefit of having them,” said Edward Yost, the manager of employee relations and development at the Society of Human Resource Management.

But not all dogs are perfect for these environments — and not all employees enjoy dogs. Barking can ensue at the cubicle next door while you’re on an important call, and the occasional accident could damage company property. And some people simply just don’t like dogs or are allergic. “The only person that is almost guaranteed to benefit from bringing the dog to work is the owner of that dog,” said Anna Akbari, a sociologist and author who writes about well-being and happiness. “The likelihood of everyone else in the office having that same band and affinity for their animal is very low.”

As such, workplaces should consider nuanced protocols before implementing a dog-friendly environment, Fearing said. If a dog shows aggression or bites a person or another dog, the animal won’t be allowed back to the office, for example, and each dog will need to be up-to-date on their shots. Other steps could include requiring a dog’s bedding to be washed once a week, as well as the implementation of HEPA filters to provide allergy relief. Additionally, sections or floors of a workplace should be determined as no-dog-zones, and employees taking their dogs to their desks should take the shortest route possible to get there, Fearing said.

The careful implementation of these rules and policies is how a dog-friendly workplace can be productive and efficient, says Fearing. That’s why Take Your Dog to Work Day — an unofficial holiday where some companies allow employees to bring their four-legged friends to the workplace for one day — this year on June 22 terrifies Fearing.

“It’s mayhem,” Fearing said. “That’s not what dog-friendly workplaces look like.”

Kate Spade’s Father Dies on the Eve of Her Funeral

The family of fashion designer Kate Spade says her father died on the eve of her funeral.

The family released a statement Thursday saying Earl Brosnahan, Jr. died Wednesday night at his home in Kansas City, Missouri. The family says he was 89 and had been in failing health.

The statement says he was “heartbroken over the recent death of his beloved daughter.”

The statement was released as a funeral began for his daughter Thursday afternoon at church in Kansas City, her hometown. Kate Spade was found dead by suicide in her New York City home on June 5.

She was 55 and had a 13-year-old daughter. Her husband, Andy Spade, says she had depression and anxiety for many years.

States Can Force Online Shoppers to Pay Sales Tax, Supreme Court Rules

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax.

The 5-4 ruling Thursday is a win for states, who said they were losing out on billions of dollars annually under two decades-old Supreme Court decisions that impacted online sales tax collection.

The high court ruled Thursday to overturn those decisions. They had resulted in some companies not collecting sales tax on every online purchase. The cases the court overturned said that if a business was shipping a product to a state where it didn’t have a physical presence such as a warehouse or office, the business didn’t have to collect the state’s sales tax. Customers were generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves if they don’t get charged it, but the vast majority didn’t.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the previous decisions were flawed.

“Each year the physical presence rule becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States. These critiques underscore that the physical presence rule, both as first formulated and as applied today, is an incorrect interpretation of the Commerce Clause,” he wrote.

In addition to being a win for states, the ruling is also a win for large retailers, who argued the physical presence rule was unfair. Retailers including Apple, Macy’s, Target and Walmart, which have brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, generally collect sales tax from their customers who buy online. That’s because they typically have a physical store in whatever state the purchase is being shipped to. Amazon.com, with its network of warehouses, also collects sales tax in every state that charges it, though third party sellers who use the site to sell goods don’t have to.

But sellers that only have a physical presence in a single state or a few states could avoid charging customers sales tax when they’re shipping to addresses outside those states. Online sellers that don’t charge sales tax on goods shipped to every state range from jewelry website Blue Nile to pet products site Chewy.com to clothing retailer L.L. Bean. Sellers who use eBay and Etsy, which provide platforms for smaller sellers, also aren’t required to collect sales tax nationwide.

The case the court ruled in has to do with a law passed by South Dakota in 2016. South Dakota’s governor has said his state loses out on an estimated $50 million a year in sales tax that doesn’t get collected by out-of-state sellers. Lawmakers in the state, which has no income tax, passed a law designed to directly challenge the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision. The law required out-of-state sellers who do more than $100,000 of business in the state or more than 200 transactions annually with state residents to collect sales tax and turn it over to the state.

South Dakota wanted out-of-state retailers to begin collecting the tax and sued several of them: Overstock.com, electronics retailer Newegg and home goods company Wayfair. The state conceded in court, however, that it could only win by persuading the Supreme Court to do away with its physical presence rule.

The Trump administration had urged the justices to side with South Dakota.

The case is South Dakota v. Wayfair, 17-494.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich Resigns Over Consensual Relationship With Employee

NEW YORK — Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has resigned after the company learned of what it called a consensual relationship with an employee.

Intel said Thursday that the relationship was in violation of the company’s non-fraternization policy, which applies to all managers.

Chief Financial Officer Robert Swan will take over as interim CEO immediately. A search for a new CEO is underway.

In this #MeToo era, corporate America is under intense pressure to enforce workplace policies on gender equality and sexual harassment.

Earlier this month, Guess Inc. co-founder Paul Marciano stepped down following a company investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

John Lasseter, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney’s animation chief, also recently said he was resigning over what he called “missteps” with employees.

Krzanich joined Intel Corp. in 1982 as an engineer.

The abrupt departure of Krzanich, who has been the Intel’s top executive since 2013, overshadowed otherwise positive news for the $246 billion tech company.

Intel said Thursday that it expects to post a per-share profit of 99 cents in the second quarter, 13 cents better than Wall Street was expecting, and revenue of $16.9 billion, which is also better than had been projected by industry analysts.

Shares of Intel Corp., based in Santa Clara, California, slid 2 percent in early trading.

Burger King Apologizes for an Ad Offering Burgers to Russian Women Who Get Pregnant by World Cup Players

(MOSCOW) — Burger King has apologized for offering a lifetime supply of Whoppers to Russian women who get pregnant by World Cup players.

Critics assailed the offer, announced on Russian social media, as sexist and demeaning.

The announcement was removed Tuesday from Burger King’s social media accounts but was still circulating among Russian social network users. It promised a reward of free burgers to women who get “the best football genes” and “ensure the success of the Russian team for generations to come.”

In a statement Wednesday to The Associated Press, Burger King said, “We are sorry about the clearly offensive promotion that the team in Russia launched online.” It said the offer “does not reflect our brand or our values and we are taking steps to ensure this type of activity does not happen again.”

Ads in Russia often play on sexist stereotypes, notably ads around sporting events like the World Cup. Women’s rights activists have been increasingly speaking out against them.

American Airlines Doesn’t Want to Fly Migrant Children Separated From Their Families

American Airlines says it has asked the federal government not to use its flights to transport migrant children separated from their families under the White House’s current immigration policy.

“We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it,” the airline said in a statement Wednesday. “We have every expectation the government will comply with our request and we thank them for doing so.”

More than 2,300 children have been taken from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border since the White House announced a “zero tolerance policy” regarding border crossings. Under the policy, adult migrants are arrested for criminal prosecution and separated from any children with whom they are traveling. The children are then kept in detention centers.

The policy has prompted widespread criticism as images and recordings of children kept in cages and crying inside those detention centers have been broadcast.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday afternoon that is designed to keep together immigrant families who are detained at the border.

American Airlines said it was not aware if the government has used any of its flights to transport children who have been separated from their parents, and that it would be “extremely disappointed to learn that this is the case.”

“The family separation process that has been widely publicized is not at all aligned with the values of American Airlines — we bring families together, not apart,” the airline said.

United Airlines offered a similar sentiment in a statement sent shortly after the message from American Airlines was published.

“Based on our serious concerns about this policy and how it’s in deep conflict with our company’s values, we have contacted federal officials to inform them that they should not transport immigrant children ion United aircraft who have been separated from their parents,” reads United’s statement. Our company’s shared purpose is to connect people and united the world. This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it.”

Frontier Airlines also issued a similar statement following the one from American Airlines.

“Frontier prides itself on being a family airline and we will not knowingly allow our flights to be used to transport migrant children away from their families,” the airline tweeted. “At this time, we are not aware if Frontier has been used for this purpose.”

Southwest Airlines echoed other airlines in a statement on Wednesday.

“Southwest Airlines has always put people first. The purpose of our airline is to connect people to what is important in their lives, and there is nothing more important to us than family,” the airline said. “While we do not have evidence that tickets purchased for Southwest flights have been utilized to transport detained children, we do not wish to have involvement in the process of separating children from their parents. Therefore, we appeal to anyone making those types of travel decisions not to utilize Southwest Airlines. We are a company founded on love, and we want to connect people to what’s important in their lives, not disconnect them.”

Following the executive order from the White House, Delta issued a statement lauding the Trump administration for “resolving the issue of separating children from their families at the U.S. border.”

“Delta’s mission is to connect people and we are against anything that runs contrary to that mission,” the airline said. “Recent reports of families being separated are disheartening and do not align with Delta’s core values.”

Delta did not comment on whether it would fly children who have been separated from their parents.

Still, it’s unclear what American, United or any other airline could do to prevent the government from flying separated children on their aircraft.

Robert Poole, the director of transportation policy at the libertarian think tank Reason Foundation, tells TIME that there is little the airlines can actually do to stop the government from transporting separated children on their flights. That’s because they are certified to be a public service and cannot arbitrarily deny service to legitimate customers, he says. Airlines could refuse to serve a drunken passenger, for example, but most likely cannot refuse to fly migrant children if a seat on the aircraft was purchased for them, Poole said.

One route the airlines could take is to band together via trade associations like Airlines for America, Poole added. Also called A4A, that group includes major airlines like American and United, but notably not Delta.

“It would take the whole trade association saying they’re going to jointly adopt it as policy to refuse to transport them and then government would have to sue,” he said. “If [the airlines] had the courage to do that, that would certainly be a way to gum up the works.”

The Department of Homeland Security called the requests from United, Frontier and American airlines “unfortunate” and said the airlines misunderstand immigration laws.

“Buckling to a false media narrative only exacerbates the problems at our border and puts more children at risk from traffickers,” DHS spokesperson Tyler Houlton tweeted. “We wish the airlines would instead choose to be part of the solution.”

Widely used D-Link modem/router under mass attack by potent IoT botnet

Malicious hackers are mass exploiting a critical vulnerability in D-Link DSL routers in an attempt to make them part of Satori, the potent Internet-of-things botnet that’s used to take down websites and mine digital coins, researchers said.

Since making its debut late last year, Satori has proven to be a particularly versatile and sophisticated botnet. It made a name for itself in December when it infected more than 100,000 Internet-connected devices in just 12 hours by exploiting remote code-execution vulnerabilities in Huawei and RealTek routers. A month later, Satori operators released a new version that infected devices used to mine digital coins, proving that the IoT botnet could also take control of more traditional computing devices. In February, Satori resurfaced when it infected tens of thousands of routers manufactured by Dasan Networks.

Building a better mousetrap

A key to Satori’s success is its use of the publicly released Mirai IoT botnet source code to turn devices with easily guessable passwords into platforms for launching Internet-crippling attacks. In 2016, Mirai launched a series of record-setting denial-of-service attacks that took security site KrebsonSecurity offline and also targeted online gamers. Satori operators use the Mirai code as a foundation on which they’ve erected an evolving series of new exploits that allow the botnet to control devices even when they’re secured with strong passwords.

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