Cop tickets a GM-owned self-driving car, though company disputes violation

A self-driving car operated by General Motors (GM) was slapped with a ticket in San Francisco on Monday after a traffic cop observed that the vehicle had failed to yield to a woman on a crosswalk.

The incident, reported by local CBS news outlet and confirmed by San Francisco Police Department, comes as the autonomous-car industry comes under increasing scrutiny following the death last week of a pedestrian in Arizona after she was struck by a self-driving car being tested by Uber.

Monday’s incident involved a vehicle operated by Cruise, the autonomous-car company that GM acquired in 2016. A spokesperson for the company insisted its vehicle had kept a safe distance from the woman on the crosswalk and posed no danger to the pedestrian, CBS reported, adding that a test driver was inside the car at the time of the incident.

The GM-owned company said in a statement that safety is its priority when testing its autonomous vehicles on public roads. “California law requires the vehicle to yield the right of way to pedestrians, allowing them to proceed undisturbed and unhurried without fear of interference of their safe passage through an intersection. Our data indicates that’s what happened here,” Cruise said.

GM’s run-in with the cops comes shortly after the company announced a plan to build a self-driving car without a steering wheel in 2019. The automaker is spending $100 million on upgrading its Michigan plants in Orion and Brownstown in preparation.

But as Uber’s tragic incident showed, there’s still some way to go before fully autonomous cars are ready to hit the road in big numbers.

Regulators are now looking more closely at safety measures incorporated into self-driving platforms that are currently being tested on public roads by a large number of automakers and technology companies. Earlier this week, the governor of Arizona instructed the state’s Department of Transportation to suspend Uber’s self-driving tests in the state until further notice following Sunday’s fatality.

GM and Cruise face no such ban at the current time, but it’ll be keen to avoid picking up any additional tickets for alleged traffic violations.

The last time we heard of a cop pulling over a self-driving car for hazardous driving was in 2015 when an officer stopped a car operated by Google for driving too slowly.