San Francisco firefighters during the rescue of a victim of the incident involving the autonomous car.SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPT (via REUTERS)
A woman has been admitted in critical condition since Monday night in a San Francisco hospital after being the victim of a road incident involving an unmanned car. Cruise, the company that operates these vehicles in the city, has explained that the woman was first hit by a car with a driver. The blow pushed her into the path of the autonomous unit, which ended up running over her. Emergency teams had to rescue her by lifting the robotaxi. This has become the latest episode in which the importance of these vehicles has already been debated and their presence has already been reduced after a couple of accidents that occurred in August.
The incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. (local time) at the intersection of Cinco and Market streets, a busy area of San Francisco. According to a statement published by Cruise, the woman crossed the street at the zebra crossing. The green light gave way to the cars, which had been waiting at the traffic light in parallel. Cruise’s taxi in the right lane and the other green vehicle in the left. He hit the woman with a “severe impact” that threw her into the path of the taxi, which was empty. “The autonomous car braked aggressively to minimize the impact,” the company says. The woman’s legs were trapped in the rear axle of the car, according to a photograph taken by a witness. The driver of the vehicle fled and at the request of the police, the automated vehicle remained at the scene.
The firefighters who responded to the emergency used special tongs to rescue the victim. Rescuers jammed the unit’s sensors, allowing the Cruise control center to immediately shut down the unit.
The company states that it is collaborating with the authorities to find whoever is responsible for the incident. The San Francisco Chronicle has been able to review videos provided by Cruise that corroborate his account of the events. The images, however, have not been made public, as they are part of the police investigation. The victim was admitted to the hospital with several injuries. On Tuesday morning her condition remained critical.
This is not the first time Cruise vehicles have found themselves in the spotlight. The company was forced to reduce the number of units in operation after a pair of incidents in August. San Francisco mobility authorities reduced to 50 vehicles, from 100, the maximum number of units that could operate during the day. The number of night taxis increased from 300 to 150.
One of Cruise’s taxis collided on August 17 with a fire truck that was heading to respond to an emergency. The company explained that the automated car could not detect the rescue vehicle in time, which was traveling in a lane in the opposite direction to jump a red light. A preliminary report indicated that a pair of buildings blocked the unit’s cameras. The other incident occurred that same Thursday night after a car with a driver ran a traffic light and hit a Cruise without passengers.
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Just a few days before that pair of incidents, Cruise and its competitor, Waymo, had received the go-ahead from regulators to offer the service 24 hours a day. The permit placed no limits on the number of cars or the mileage that taxis could record. The 300 vehicles that Cruise had was only a small fraction compared to the more than 10,000 units that Uber and Lyft have in San Francisco.
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