General Motors' self-driving car unit Cruise can't catch a break these days, with its robotaxis being involved in three separate incidents over the past week alone.
Exactly one week ago, San Francisco approved GM’s Cruise and Alphabet's Waymo to operate their driverless vehicles in the city 24/7. Since then, Cruise AV robotaxis have been in the news for the wrong reasons.
One day after getting approval to operate around the clock in San Francisco, 10 Cruise AVs stopped in the middle of Grant Avenue for no apparent reason, blocking traffic in the area for 20 minutes. Cruise later said the malfunction was caused by wireless connectivity issues.
A few days later, a Cruise robotaxi entered a construction site on Golden Gate Avenue and got stock in wet concrete. Finally, a third and more serious incident happened at 10 p.m. on August 17 when a Cruise AV got hit by a fire truck in San Francisco at the intersection between Polk and Turk streets.
Cruise reported the incident on its X (formerly Twitter) account today and said its robotaxi entered the intersection on a green light and was struck by the emergency vehicle that "appeared to be en route to an emergency scene" – i.e. had its flashing lights and sirens on. This suggests the possibility that the Cruise vehicle did not yield to an emergency vehicle.
"Our car contained one passenger who was treated on scene and transported via ambulance for what we believe are non-severe injuries," the company noted. Cruise added that it is investigating the crash "to better understand our AVs performance," and will be in touch with the City of San Francisco about the event.
In a reply to Cruise's thread, user @oFFMetaSweat posted a video showing the aftermath of the crash, which shows that the Chevrolet Bolt EV-based robotaxi was struck by the fire truck on the right side, in the lower area of the doors. The impact was powerful enough for the Cruise AV's side curtain airbags to be deployed.
It's worth noting that San Francisco fire leadership previously expressed concerns about self-driving cars obstructing emergency operations in the city.
"Our folks cannot be paying attention to an autonomous vehicle when we've got ladders to throw," San Francisco Fire chief Jeanine Nicholson said at a public meeting ahead of the California Public Utility Commission's approval last week, according to an NPR report. She cited multiple instances of self-driving cars obstructing emergency operations, including obstructing roadways, blocking firehouse doors, and running through emergency tape.