Human knocks down woman in hit-and-run. Then driverless Cruise car parks on top of her

Victim in critical condition

A woman in San Francisco is in critical condition after being first struck by a hit-and-run driver, and then falling in front of a driverless Cruise car, which ran her over and trapped her under its wheels.

The accident occurred on Monday in the US city's downtown, near the intersection of Market and Fifth Streets, at 2135 PT. Both vehicles started moving after traffic lights turned green, though the pedestrian was still in the crosswalk, Cruise told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The human driver hit her first, and knocked her into the neighboring lane directly in front of a Cruise autonomous vehicle (AV) that was driving around by itself with no-one on board. The self-driving car then ran her over and came to a stop on top of her body, turning on its hazard lights. Her leg was pinned down by the back tire.

A spokesperson for Cruise acknowledged the severity of the incident and noted that the car "braked aggressively," to try and avoid hitting the human in its path.

"The initial impact was severe and launched the pedestrian directly in front of the AV," the spokesperson told The Register in a statement.

"The AV then braked aggressively to minimize the impact. The driver of the other vehicle fled the scene, and at the request of the police, the AV was kept in place. Our heartfelt concern and focus is the well-being of the person who was injured and we are actively working with police to help identify the responsible driver."

Firefighters used equipment to hoist the Cruise car up and freed the woman. Meanwhile, police are searching for the driver of the other car, who fled the scene. A video of the accident captured by the Cruise car has been shared with law enforcement, and some members of the press.

And we know what you're thinking: would the second car have still hit her if it was being driven by a person? It's a good question. Did being under AI control really make a difference? While that's figured out, we always feel it's worth reporting these kinds of accidents to give readers context and an idea of their capabilities and operation. Are they as good as humans? Shouldn't they be better?

Should the Cruise car have not started moving if there was indeed a person still on the crosswalk? This whole sad affair raises many questions.


It's not the first time that Cruise's driverless vehicles have been involved in collisions. In two separate incidents in August, one of its cars hit an emergency vehicle, prompting city officials to slash the fleet of computer-controlled robo-cars in the city by half. Cruise operates 50 self-driving cars in SF during the day, and 150 at night. In April, the ten-year-old biz rolled out a software update after one of its vehicles slammed into a bus in the city. 

The San Francisco Municipal Transport Agency and the San Francisco County Transport Authority – as well as federal lawmakers including Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Kevin Mullin (D-CA) – have urged officials to improve monitoring of autonomous cars, and force robo-vehicle operators to report incidents. ®

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