San Francisco downtown witnessed an unfortunate incident Monday night when a pedestrian ended up critically injured, entrapped beneath a driverless car. Surprisingly, this autonomous vehicle wasn’t the first one to have caused the accident.
The self-directed car belonged to Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors and a renowned name in the niche of self-driving cars, headquartered in San Francisco. A video clip of the distressing episode as captured by the vehicle’s in-built camera system revealed that the autonomous car was not the principal offender in this case. Instead, the pedestrian was hit while the cars had the right to proceed through the intersection.
The public release of this video is currently restrained by Cruise, owing to the active investigation undertaken by San Francisco authorities.
San Francisco Fire Department spokesperson, Justin Schorr disclosed the victim’s critical health status on Tuesday, indicating the severity of the life-threatening injuries sustained. According to Navideh Forghani, a Cruise spokesperson, the initial crash was perpetrated by a human-driven vehicle, causing the pedestrian to end up in the direct path of Cruise’s vehicle. The driverless car promptly initiated its brakes to ameliorate the impact, subsequent to which, unfortunately, the operator of the first vehicle fled the scene.
Remarkably, the video footage documented by the autonomous vehicle gave an immensely detailed recapitulation of the incident. It began when the AV was stationed at a red light adjacent to the offender vehicle. Once the light signalled green, both cars advanced towards the crosswalk where a woman was seen attempting to cross despite the oncoming traffic. The green car hit the pedestrian and she tumbled onto the hood of the car, rolling down to land directly in front of the AV, which halted right on top of her.
The San Francisco Police discreetly advised Cruise’s representative not to move the AV atop the injured pedestrian. According to Schorr, company representatives promptly arrived at the accident site and have been consistently cooperative with the investigation. He adds that the car’s camera and telemetric data might significantly contribute towards resolving this unique case.
The victim has been hospitalized for extensive injuries at the San Francisco General Hospital, under the care of the San Francisco Fire Department. While the San Francisco Police Department is addressing the investigation, it has yet to address the cause of this tragic incident.
In response to the grievous event, Cruise expressed their sincere preoccupation for the injured individual and pledged to assist the police in identifying the hit-and-run offender. The firefighters had to resort to a device named “jaws of life” to remove the victim from beneath the vehicle.
Interestingly, Lt. Mariano Elias of the San Francisco Fire Department pointed out that such a critical injury caused by an autonomous vehicle is the first of its kind in San Francisco.
Despite the recent approval by California regulators for the citywide 24/7 operation of robotaxis, Cruise has been a hot topic of controversy in San Francisco. Traffic congestion and numerous collisions have been attributed to the company’s self-driving vehicles, including an incident where a car drove into a construction zone and got stuck in wet concrete.
In fact, the San Francisco Fire Department recorded a staggering 83 incidents this year involving autonomous cars being a hindrance to their operations, as opposed to injuring someone.
As a response to these developments, Cruise has agreed to condense its fleet by half, as per California Department of Motor Vehicles’ request while it refurbishes its operations.
This recent string of events underscores the complications in fabricating completely secure, self-driven passenger vehicles. Despite General Motors’ promising acquisition of Cruise Automation four years ago for a whopping US$1 billion, a lot of companies have had to reconsider or completely abandon their ambitions regarding autonomous cars. Even with the involvement of massive names like Uber, Lyft, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the modern-day endeavour has turned out to be time-consuming, risky and expensive.
Nevertheless, advocates of autonomous vehicles continue to argue that self-driven cars are still a safer alternative when compared to human-operated vehicles.