Home Artificial Intelligence Woman stuck under Cruise self-driving car after getting hit by a driver

Woman stuck under Cruise self-driving car after getting hit by a driver

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SAN FRANCISCO — A pedestrian crossing a busy intersection was struck by a regular car Monday night and hurled beneath a Cruise autonomous vehicle where she was trapped for several minutes until firefighters freed her, according to emergency responders and a video of the crash viewed by The Washington Post.

The victim was taken to the hospital where she was in critical condition on Tuesday. It was unknown if being trapped beneath the autonomous vehicle for several minutes contributed to her injuries.

The incident is the latest involving an autonomous vehicle in San Francisco, where driverless cars created by two companies — General Motors-owned Cruise and Google’s Waymo — have become common and created angst as they suddenly stop in dense and crowded intersections and interrupt the normal flow of traffic. The cars also have disrupted first responders on numerous occasions, from rolling into scenes cordoned off by caution tape to once colliding with a firetruck on its way to an emergency scene.

Monday night’s accident occurred around 9:30 p.m. in downtown San Francisco, where the Cruise and another car were stopped side-by side for a red light. Both vehicles advanced when the light turned green, according to witness accounts and video recorded by the Cruise vehicle’s internal cameras and reviewed by The Post.

As the cars moved forward, the pedestrian entered the traffic lanes in front of them, according to the video, and was struck by the regular car. The video shows the victim rolling onto that vehicle’s windshield and then being flung into the path of the driverless car, which stopped once it collided with the woman.

According to Cruise spokesperson Hannah Lindow, the autonomous vehicle “braked aggressively to minimize the impact” but was unable to stop before rolling over the woman and coming to a halt. Photos published by the San Francisco Chronicle show the woman’s leg sticking out from underneath the car’s left rear wheel.

The autonomous vehicle stayed in place until officials arrived and rescued the woman from underneath. The pedestrian had “multiple traumatic injuries,” according to the fire department.

“The initial impact was severe and launched the pedestrian directly in front of the” Cruise vehicle, Lindow said in a statement. “Our heartfelt concern and focus is the well-being of the person who was injured and we are actively working with police to help identify the responsible driver.”

The driver drove off without stopping, according to Cruise.

There was no passenger on board the Cruise vehicle.

In August, California regulators authorized Waymo and Cruise to offer paid robotaxi service in San Francisco, allowing the two companies to operate in the city like any other ride-hailing service — just without drivers. Shortly after that decision, however, state regulators opened an investigation into a spate of “concerning incidents” involving Cruise vehicles in the city.

As the California Department of Motor Vehicles works on its investigation, it ordered Cruise to reduce its fleet size in San Francisco by 50 percent — a major setback for the company. Under that reduction, Cruise may operate only up to 50 driverless vehicles during the day and 150 vehicles at night until the investigation is complete.

A DMV spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday on the status of the investigation.

In an interview with The Post last month, Cruise chief executive Kyle Vogt said many of the incidents involving his company’s cars have been “sensationalized” and said that driverless cars will ultimately lead to safer roads in a city that experienced a spike of human-driver-related road fatalities in 2022.

Still, the spate of incidents has caught the attention of former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Kevin Mullin (D-Calif.), who urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ramp up its regulation of the cars and also collect more data on the vehicles.

In a letter last month, the two said they have “serious” concerns.

“As sophisticated as such software is becoming, AVs on the streets of San Francisco, which we both represent, have been having challenges in addressing complex real-world situations,” they wrote. “AV incidents are not merely an inconvenience; they endanger the lives of passengers, other drivers, pedestrians, and even individuals with no proximity to the vehicles who require emergency services.”

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