Driverless Taxis Blocked Ambulance and Patient Later Died, San Francisco Fire Dept. Says newsbhunt


Two Cruise driverless taxis blocked an ambulance carrying a critically injured patient who later died at a hospital, a San Francisco Fire Department report said, in another incident involving self-driving cars in the city.

On Aug. 14, two Cruise autonomous vehicles were stopped in the right two lanes of a four-lane, one-way street in the SoMa neighborhood, where the victim was found, according to the department report. It said that a police vehicle in another lane had to be moved in order for the ambulance to leave.

The driverless vehicles delayed transport and medical care, the report said. The patient, who had been struck by a car, was pronounced dead about 20 to 30 minutes after arriving at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, about 2.4 miles away from the accident.

Cruise, an autonomous vehicle subsidiary of General Motors, said that it was not at fault. The footage Cruise shared with The New York Times appeared to show that one of its vehicles had moved from the scene before the victim was loaded to the ambulance, while the other stopped in the right lane until after the ambulance left. The footage also showed that other vehicles, including another ambulance, passed by the right side of the Cruise taxi.

“As soon as the victim was loaded into the ambulance, the ambulance left the scene immediately and was never impeded” by the Cruise vehicle, the company said in a statement. The ambulance passed the stopped Cruise vehicle approximately 90 seconds after loading the victim, according to the footage.

Cruise said that a police officer spoke to one of its employees through remote assistance in the vehicle, and that the company was able to navigate it away from the scene after the ambulance left.

The Fire Department confirmed the report, which was first obtained by Forbes. Jeanine Nicholson, chief of the Fire Department, said that “seconds matter” in such incidents and the problem was that responders were not able to access to the patient.

“I have yet to see Cruise taking responsibility for anything,” Ms. Nicholson said, adding that more conversations need to happen.

Aaron Peskin, the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said that regardless of what led to the victim’s death, the “accumulative total” of incidents involving driverless cars was more alarming. “All of them have a common theme, which is autonomous vehicles are not ready for prime time,” Mr. Peskin said.

Cruise and Waymo, which is backed by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, began to offer driverless taxi services in San Francisco last year. The accident occurred four days after both companies obtained a permit from California state regulators to expand their services to charge for rides at all hours in San Francisco.

The Fire Department said the case was one of more than 70 of autonomous vehicles interfering with emergency responders. San Francisco officials have protested the expansion of driverless taxi services since January, pointing to cases where driverless cars blocked emergency vehicles and interfered during active firefighting and crime scenes.

Some city officials have said that these incidents are a small fraction of all cases involving driverless cars. The companies were required to report only collisions to regulators, not other incidents.

Since the expansion of driverless taxi services began, Cruise vehicles were reported to have blocked traffic and to have been stuck in wet cement. On Aug. 17, a Cruise vehicle collided with a fire truck. The next day, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which oversees the safety of autonomous vehicles, asked Cruise to halve the number of vehicles it was operating in the city as it investigated the incidents.

City officials plan to file a motion for a new hearing on the service expansion, Mr. Peskin said. David Chiu, the city attorney, previously asked the California Public Utilities Commission, the agency that approved the expansion, to halt the plan.


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