An autonomous vehicle (AV) operated by Cruise ran over a pedestrian in San Francisco on Monday night just after she’d been hit by another car, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
According to witnesses, the force of the initial impact knocked the woman into the path of the Cruise robotaxi, leaving her pinned under one of its wheels. The driver in the other car reportedly fled the scene.
The condition of the hospitalized woman was described as “critical” as of Tuesday morning.
Prior to the incident, the two cars had been waiting side-by-side at a red traffic signal, according to video seen by the Chronicle. When it turned green, the two vehicles entered the intersection, at which point the pedestrian was struck by the other car, sending her into the path of the Cruise car, which had no one in it at the time.
In a statement to Digital Trends, Cruise confirmed that a “human-driven vehicle struck a pedestrian while traveling in the lane immediately to the left of a Cruise AV.”
It described the initial impact as “severe.” As the pedestrian fell in front of the Cruise vehicle, it automatically “braked aggressively to minimize the impact.”
Cruise added: “Our heartfelt concern and focus is the wellbeing of the person who was injured and we are actively working with police to help identify the responsible driver.”
Images taken at the scene appear to show the rear left wheel of the Cruise car slightly raised, which corresponds with reports that the car stopped on the woman’s leg, leaving her trapped until firefighters lifted the vehicle away.
Monday’s incident follows a landmark decision in August by California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which oversees commercial passenger services, when it voted to allow Cruise and another leading AV operator — Waymo — to expand their paid ridesharing services in San Francisco to all hours of the day instead of just quieter periods.
But a few days later, regulators ordered Cruise to halve its robotaxi fleet in the city following a crash with a fire truck in which the driverless car’s passenger suffered minor injuries. Other incidents involving the AVs have also been reported during their trial period on the city’s streets.
The regulator — the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) — said at the time that it’s investigating “recent concerning incidents” involving self-driving Cruise cars operating on the city’s public roads.
It’s too early to form any conclusions about Monday’s incident, and by all accounts, it was difficult for the Cruise vehicle to avoid. However, reports suggesting that the vehicle stopped directly on the woman’s leg are clearly troubling. A police report should confirm the details of the incident soon.
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