PHOENIX — The operator behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber vehicle that hit and killed a 49-year-old woman Sunday night had served almost four years in an Arizona prison in the early 2000s on an attempted armed robbery conviction.
A representative for Uber declined to comment on the conviction and the company's hiring policies, citing an active investigation.
Elaine Herzberg was walking a bike across a street outside a crosswalk in Tempe, Ariz., at about 10 p.m. when she was hit, police said.
Police said the vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator, who has been identified as 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
Tempe police spokesman Sgt. Ronald Elcock said impairment did not initially appear to be a factor for either Vasquez or Herzberg. He added it was not apparent that the vehicle attempted to slow down while it approached Herzberg.
Court records show Vasquez has a criminal record in Arizona under a different legal name.
Records from the Arizona Department of Corrections show Vasquez served three years and 10 months in a state prison for convictions on attempted armed robbery and unsworn falsification. She was released from prison in 2005.
The autonomous vehicles have been used to shuttle Uber passengers in parts of Tempe and Scottsdale. Riders who are picked up by a self-driving cars would likely recognize them from the presence of the exterior sensors.
The San Francisco-based company recently came under fire for hiring felons. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission company fined Uber's parent company $8.9 million in November 2017 after an investigation determined the ride-hailing service had hired nearly 60 drivers with previous felony convictions.
Colorado state law prevents individuals with felony convictions, alcohol or drug-related driving offenses, unlawful sexual offenses and major traffic violations from working for rideshare companies.
Uber attributed the unlawful hirings to a "process area" inconsistent with Colorado's ridesharing regulations. The company said all drivers must undergo a third-party background screening "per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations."
Uber has more than 18,000 contract drivers and 1,000 employees in Arizona, with most staffers at the downtown Phoenix operations center.
Close to 300 people worked in the self-driving operations in Tempe as of November 2017.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.