A Cruise autonomous vehicle (AV) was reportedly involved in a horrific accident in San Francisco on Monday evening. A pedestrian crossing a street was hit by a car, which sped off. However, the hit-and-run hurled her in front of a Cruise driverless taxi, which stopped on top of her leg as she screamed in pain. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the woman was still in critical condition at 9:30AM ET on Tuesday.
The pedestrian was reportedly walking in a crosswalk at Market and Fifth in San Francisco when she was hit by a green car, which fled the scene. A witness allegedly told investigators that he watched the first car strike the woman, causing her to roll off its side and into the path of the Cruise car. As the autonomous taxi proceeded through the green light, it ran over her and came to a complete stop, pinning her leg under its rear axle and tire. Cruise says there weren’t any passengers in the AV, which was in autonomous mode.
The SF Chronicle says that it viewed a video recording of the incident provided by Cruise to confirm the sequence of events. The company offered to make the video available to Engadget, but we declined.
A bicycle delivery person reportedly tried to reassure the woman that an ambulance was coming and that it would be okay. “She was just screaming,” the cyclist reportedly told the SF Chronicle. City firefighters arrived and used the jaws of life to lift the car off the woman, who was transported to San Francisco General Hospital with “multiple traumatic injuries,” according to fire captain Justin Schorr. He said the car appeared programmed to stop and turn on its hazard lights after sensing an obstruction (in this case, a human being) beneath it.
“At approximately 9:30 pm on October 2, a human-driven vehicle struck a pedestrian while traveling in the lane immediately to the left of a Cruise AV,” Cruise communications manager Hannah Lindow wrote in a statement to Engadget. “The initial impact was severe and launched the pedestrian directly in front of the AV. The AV then braked aggressively to minimize the impact. The driver of the other vehicle fled the scene, and at the request of the police the AV was kept in place. 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.”
The nightmarish incident occurred as driverless taxis have expanded their reach in the city. Cruise and Waymo got approval from California regulators this year to operate and charge fares for fully autonomous cars in San Francisco at any time of the day. However, the state’s DMV asked the company in August to reduce its fleet of driverless taxis by half, pending an investigation into crashes involving the AVs. Cruise agreed to operate no more than 50 autonomous taxis during the day and no more than 150 of them at night.