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October 5, 2023

San Francisco Police Investigate Robotaxi Incident Involving Pedestrian

Shockwaves through San Francisco, a woman found herself trapped beneath a Cruise robotaxi after a collision

San Francisco's tech-forward landscape witnessed a disturbing incident on October 2, prompting the San Francisco Police Department to initiate an investigation. In this unsettling episode, a woman found herself trapped beneath a Cruise robotaxi after being struck by a human-driven vehicle. The incident has raised significant questions and concerns about the safety of autonomous vehicles on the city's streets.

Video footage captured by Cruise unveils the heart-stopping moment when a robotaxi came into contact with a pedestrian who had been initially struck by a human-driven car, propelling her in front of the autonomous vehicle. Despite the robotaxi's aggressive braking attempt to mitigate the impact, the pedestrian was unfortunately run over and became trapped beneath the vehicle, as corroborated by both police reports and video evidence from onlookers.

The gripping video captures a Cruise vehicle obeying traffic signals and proceeding after a green light. The footage reveals a human-driven vehicle in the left lane accelerating through the intersection. Within moments, a pedestrian enters the street from the far left side, colliding with the human-driven car. The pedestrian is then propelled onto the roof of the car before falling onto the right side and ultimately landing in the lane where the Cruise robotaxi was positioned.

The San Francisco Police Department promptly responded to the incident, rendering assistance to the injured pedestrian and transporting her to the hospital. As of now, the pedestrian's medical condition remains undisclosed. The police statement confirms that the autonomous vehicle remained at the scene, devoid of an occupant during the collision. The operator of the autonomous vehicle is cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

Cruise swiftly addressed the incident on social media, outlining the events leading up to it. According to their account, a human-driven vehicle struck the pedestrian while traveling in the lane adjacent to the Cruise AV. This initial impact propelled the pedestrian in front of the AV, prompting the autonomous vehicle to execute aggressive braking to minimize the impact. The driver of the other vehicle left the scene, and upon the police's request, the AV remained at the site.

The incident marks the latest in a series of incidents plaguing Cruise's operations in San Francisco, including crashes and other issues such as traffic obstructions and unintended encounters with wet cement. While Cruise's account suggests the company may not be at fault for the initial pedestrian impact, a thorough investigation will be crucial in determining if the AV could have taken measures to avoid the collision altogether.

The incident couldn't have occurred at a more critical juncture for Cruise, as the company endeavors to expand its robotaxi operations in San Francisco and initiate testing, with eventual plans to offer paid rides in over a dozen U.S. cities. Cruise, alongside Waymo, secured approval from the California Public Utilities Commission in August to expand their commercial operations in San Francisco, allowing for 24/7 operation, fleet expansion, and paid rides throughout the city. However, a recent crash involving an emergency response vehicle led to the California Department of Motor Vehicles requesting a 50% reduction in Cruise's fleet size pending an investigation—a challenge for Cruise at a time when it aims to accelerate its autonomous ambitions.

Neil Hodgson-Coyle
Neil Hodgson-Coyle
Editorial chief at TechNews180
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