Self-Driving Cruise Taxi Crashes With Passengers On Board

The SFPD confirmed to us that the driverless Chevy Bolt was carrying three rear-seat passengers.

The past 30 days have been some of the most chaotic ever for Cruise, General Motors’ self-driving subsidiary. Not only has it been under public scrutiny for packs of its driverless cars blocking roadways in the San Francisco area, but one of the company’s automated Chevy Bolt taxis was also involved in a crash that resulted in rider injuries.

The autonomous car made an unprotected left turn and was hit by a Toyota Prius on June 3, though the accident wasn’t reported until Wednesday. When reached for comment by The Drive, the San Francisco Police Department explained that the Cruise vehicle had three passengers, all in the backseat, while the Prius had two occupants in total. This happened one day after California began allowing the company to charge fares to the general public.

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According to the incident report Cruise filed with the California DMV, the Cruise taxi was making a green light left turn from Geary Boulevard onto Spruce Street in downtown San Francisco. It began the turn and stopped in the middle of the intersection, presumably noticing the Toyota headed for it. The Prius then hit the right rear of the Chevy Bolt.

Cruise explained that afterward, “occupants of both vehicles received medical treatment for allegedly minor injuries.” GM’s incident report points out the Prius was speeding at the time of the accident, and was in the right turn lane before heading straight and hitting the Bolt.

SFPD told The Drive that “no arrest or citation was issued at the time of the initial investigation,” which is still ongoing.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened up a special crash investigation into the accident, but there are no public results yet. According to documents reviewed by Wired, Cruise decided in the wake of the crash to temporarily change the taxi-fleet programming to make fewer unprotected left turns. Other recordings obtained by Wired indicate the company has opened an internal investigation, and that Cruise’s chief legal officer has said to employees such incidents are “unavoidable” and would likely happen more as the company rolls out additional self-driving taxis.

Unfortunately, easy solutions may not be at hand for either the accidents or the continually halting cars lost in intersections. According to Wired, the stranded Chevy Bolts seen across the city are likely part of a systemic problem Cruise faces with the two-way data connections the cars need to operate properly. Loss of the data link not only seemingly stops the cars in their tracks, but it also potentially violates the law that allows them to operate without a driver in California. The accident also remains an open question until either the NHTSA or SFPD shares the results of their investigations, as Cruise’s is internal and likely will not be made available to the public.

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