GM and Motorcyclist Struck by Cruise Test Vehicle Settle Lawsuit

While neither side admits fault, GM appears to have resolved the situation to the motorcyclist's satisfaction.

General Motors

Back in December, California motorcyclist Oscar Nilsson filed a lawsuit against General Motors after colliding with a vehicle operated by Cruise, GM's autonomous division. A court filing reveals that this lawsuit has been settled.

Nilsson had claimed that the Cruise-operated Chevy Bolt had begun to change lanes, but changed its mind and swerved back into the lane while he was already passing, and struck him. The Bolt driver's hands were reportedly off the steering wheel the whole time, indicating that the car was driving itself.

GM did not deny that the Bolt had initiated, then aborted a lane change under its own control, but laid the blame for the crash on Nilsson for reportedly starting the pass, looking at the car, wobbling, and then crashing without contacting the Bolt. Although Nilsson was passing the Bolt within its lane before its lane change was complete, lane splitting is legal in California, though GM questions whether Nilsson began to pass the Bolt too soon.

Although the case has been settled, presumably to Nilsson's satisfaction, the question of whether the motorcyclist or the car that was driving itself was at fault in the crash remains unanswered. This case was one of the first involving a self-driving test vehicle colliding with another person and could have set a legal precedent for liability in such cases had it gone to trial. 

The case of a self-driving Uber car fatally striking a pedestrian in March was much more severe, but also more clear-cut as to who was responsible. Although that case was also settled out of court, the National Transportation Safety Board investigation determined that the car's sensors detected the pedestrian six seconds before impact. Both the car's autonomous systems as well as the human operator failed to evaluate the data and execute evasive maneuvers before it was too late.