California suspended Cruise driverless taxis from San Francisco streets after an accident where a pedestrian was dragged under its wheels. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) cited safety concerns, accusing the company of misrepresenting the incident.
Cruise, one of the two firms permitted to offer taxi trips with driverless cars in the city, announced it would “pause operations in the city.” Driverless taxis, often called autonomous vehicles (AVs), are a frequent sight in San Francisco, attracting the awe of many tourists.
Driverless Cars Banned From San Francisco
As the name implies, there is no driver. A customer can use an app to hail a cab and unlock the door with their phone.
However, critics raise concerns about the safety of these vehicles and question their presence on city streets. A pedestrian got hit and thrown into the path of a Cruise car.
Cruise claims that the car “recognized a collision” and stopped. It then “tried to pull over to prevent additional road safety problems, moving the individual forward approximately 20 feet.”
However, the DMV has provided additional details.
“The AV collided with and ran over the pedestrian during the hard-braking maneuver,” the agency stated.
“After coming to a full stop, the AV vehicle then attempted to pull over while the pedestrian was beneath the vehicle.”
The DMV Accuses Cruise of Misrepresenting the Situation
On 3 October, the agency met with Cruise to analyze the incident.
“The video footage shown to the department only included the AV’s initial stop following the hard-braking maneuver. The footage of the subsequent movement of the AV to perform a pull-over maneuver was not shared with the department,” the DMV explains.
Cruise stated that this situation had not been encountered before and was the result of a combination of factors.
However, the DMV stated that the incident “suggests that Cruise’s vehicles may not have the capability to respond safely and appropriately in pedestrian-related incidents.”
The agency confirmed to the BBC that the suspension doesn’t extend to Waymo, the second company offering paid driverless taxis in San Francisco.
Cruise issued a statement saying, “We have maintained close communication with regulators, addressing their inquiries and aiding the police in identifying the vehicle involved in the hit and run.”
Challenges for Cruise’s Expansion in San Francisco
The DMV’s action presents a significant setback for Cruise, a company that appeared to have recently established itself in San Francisco. Cruise aims to expand to other cities, such as Phoenix in Arizona, with San Francisco serving as a crucial test case for the company.
In August, the city granted the company permission to offer 24-hour taxis for paid trips, marking a significant milestone for Cruise.
Shortly after that, a Cruise car collided with a fire engine, leading to a request for the company to reduce its fleet of cars on the streets. Emergency services in San Francisco have also criticized the company’s vehicles for obstructing roads.
Both Waymo and Cruise have consistently argued that their cars are safer than human drivers. However, they can sometimes perform actions that seem unusual, jerky, or strange.
The BBC has used Cruise AVs on multiple occasions on San Francisco streets, including an incident where the car couldn’t execute a right turn and caused a traffic blockage until it was manually controlled.
Many San Franciscans appreciate these cars because they eliminate the risk of drunk driving, speeding, or refusing to pick up passengers with disabilities, as there’s no human driver involved.
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