Two Cruise driverless taxis blocked an ambulance carrying a critically injured patient who later died at a hospital, a San Francisco Fire Department report said, in another incident involving self-driving cars in the city .
On Aug. 14, two Cruise autonomous vehicles were stopped in the right two lanes of a four-lane, one-way street in the SoMa neighborhood, where the victim was found, according to the department’s report. It said a police car in another lane had to be moved to allow the ambulance to leave.
Driverless cars have disrupted transportation and medical care, the report said. The patient, who had been hit by a car, died about 20 to 30 minutes after arriving at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, about 2.4 miles away from the accident.
Cruise, an autonomous vehicle subsidiary of General Motors, said it was innocent. Footage shared by Cruise with The New York Times appeared to show one of its vehicles moving away from the scene before loading the victim into the ambulance, while the other stopped in the right lane until the ambulance left. The footage also shows other vehicles, including another ambulance, passing on the right side of the Cruise taxi.
“Once the victim was loaded into the ambulance, the ambulance immediately left the scene and was not stopped” by the Cruise vehicle, the company said in a statement. The ambulance passed the stopped Cruise vehicle about 90 seconds after loading the victim, according to the footage.
Cruise said a police officer spoke to one of its employees via remote assistance in the vehicle, and the company was able to navigate him away from the scene after the ambulance left.
Fire Department confirmed the report, which was first picked up by Forbes. Jeanine Nicholson, chief of the Fire Department, said that “seconds matter” in such incidents and the problem is that responders cannot access the patient.
“I’ve never seen Cruise take responsibility for anything,” Ms. Nicholson, adding that more conversations need to happen.
Aaron Peskin, the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said that regardless of what led to the victim’s death, the “accumulative total” of incidents involving driverless cars is more alarming. “They all have a common theme, which is that autonomous vehicles are not ready for prime time,” said Mr. Peskin.
Cruise and Waymo, which is backed by Alphabet, the parent company of Google, began offering driverless taxi services in San Francisco last year. The accident occurred four days after the two companies got a permit from California state regulators to expand their services to charge for rides at all hours in San Francisco.
The Fire Department said the case is one of more than 70 autonomous vehicles interfering with emergency responders. San Francisco officials have protested the expansion of driverless taxi services since January, pointing to cases where the driverless vehicles have blocked emergency vehicles and interfered during active combat. at fire and crime scenes.
Some city officials say these incidents are a small fraction of all cases involving driverless cars. Companies are required to report only collisions to regulators, not other incidents.
Since the expansion of driverless taxi services began, Cruise vehicles have been reported to have blocked traffic and got stuck on the wet pavement. On August 17, a Cruise vehicle collided with a fire truck. The next day, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which oversees the safety of autonomous vehicles, asked Cruise to halve the number of vehicles it operates in the city while it investigates the incidents.
City officials plan to file a motion for a new hearing on the service expansion, Mr. Peskin said. David Chiu, the city’s attorney, previously asked the California Public Utilities Commission, the agency that approved the expansion, to halt the plan.