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Cruise Autonomous Robotaxis Rear-Ends Bus, Get Tangled in Power Lines

Cruise's cutely named cars are proving to be a continued menace for San Francisco.
Cruise Crash
via Cruise, Twitter

Cruise, the robotaxi arm of General Motors, is back in the news for its ongoing menace rampage on the streets of San Francisco. Over the past week, driverless Cruise vehicles have been involved in not one, but two publicized traffic events.

One of the events involved a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni) bus. The autonomous Chevy Bolt, which is named Souffle, rear-ended the bus. The aftermath of the crash was photographed and posted to Twitter by several users, revealing damage to the Bolt’s front bumper, headlights, and hood.

Cruise said that there were no occupants in its vehicle at the time of the crash. It also verified that there were no injuries reported related to the incident, meaning that no passengers on the bus were injured either.

It’s not clear how the vehicle actually managed to make contact with the bus. Cruise says that in addition to cameras and radar units, its vehicles are also equipped with LIDAR sensors, meaning that it has a 360-degree field of view with real-time distance measurements baked into the sensor data.

Just several days prior, two Cruise vehicles also became tangled up in downed overhead Muni wires following a large storm that rolled through the bay area. The vehicles either ignored or were not able to detect caution tape being used to indicate a road closure. As such, they drove through the closed streets and quickly became ensnared in the wires.

“Given the damage caused by last night’s storms, some of our cars briefly entered areas with downed trees or power lines,” said Cruise in a tweet. “Some were able to proceed autonomously, but where needed we immediately dispatched teams to remove the vehicles.”

Those incidents aren’t even close to the first time that Cruise vehicles have caused trouble in San Franciso. Following the launch of its program last year, the company has been quite a handful for locals. Between repeatedly blocking traffic and crashing, the AV provider has fallen under the eye of not only local regulators but also the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as well.

In January, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority formally protested the expansion of both Cruise and Waymo to the California Public Utilities Commission—the body that authorizes and governs AV projects in the city—asking it to halt any approval for the driverless services for the time being. The SFCTA cited ongoing traffic-related issues with the Cruise’s fleet and noted an incident where firefighters had to smash the windows of a Cruise-operated Chevrolet Bolt that attempted to drive over fire hoses.

Last summer, an autonomous tipster claiming to be a Cruise insider warned city officials that the AV company launched too soon and was a “chaotic environment.” This tip came at the height of publicity for Cruise’s so-called “Vehicle Recovery Events” where the company needed to dispatch workers to clear fleets of cars that piled up behind one another and blocked lanes of traffic at a time.

It’s not clear if Cruise will be allowed to actually expand in the near future, at least not in San Francisco, however, the ongoing problems with the service may cause heightened scrutiny as it further upsets concerns local residents and regulators.

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