SF Officials Say Robotaxis Contributed to Person's Death

Protests followed San Francisco Fire Department's report
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2023 2:30 AM CDT
Officials Say Robotaxis Blocked Road, Delaying Ambulance
FILE - A Cruise AV, General Motor's autonomous electric Bolt EV in Detroit is displayed, Jan. 16, 2019.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Protesters gathered at the San Francisco headquarters of robotaxi company Cruise Monday after claims came out that two of the company's self-driving vehicles contributed to a person's death last month. The San Francisco Fire Department released a report last week regarding the August 14 incident, in which an ambulance responded to a pedestrian who had been struck by a car, and the report says two Cruise autonomous vehicles in the right two lanes of a one-way, four-lane street were not moving, the New York Times reports, and police could not manually take over the vehicles, the Guardian reports. (The car that hit the pedestrian was driven by a human, and was not an autonomous vehicle.) Robotaxi services have long been controversial in San Francisco, with many concerned about not just public safety and traffic issues but job replacement as well.

According to the fire department, the Cruise vehicles "block[ed] ingress and egress," and contributed to the fact that the pedestrian ultimately died after a delay in arriving at the hospital due to the blockage. However, TechCrunch reports that it was provided video of the scene that "mostly backs" Cruise's claim that the fire department is wrong. After the victim is loaded into the ambulance, per TechCrunch (which has more details of the movements of all the vehicles involved here), "the video showed the first responders getting into the ambulance and backing up slightly to get distance from the parked Cruise vehicle, then maneuvering to the left of the vehicle seconds later." That said, the site notes, "if the street had been a one-way, single-lane road, an indecisive robotaxi parked at the intersection would have definitely been a hindrance." (More San Francisco stories.)

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