On December 7, a self-driving GM Cruise car collided with a motorcyclist on Oak and Fillmore, sending the cyclist to the hospital in a so-far rare case of an automated vehicle injuring a human driver.
Private companies testing self-driving car tech on public roads in California must report any accidents to the state DMV.
According to Cruise—a robot car startup based in San Francisco and owned by General Motors since 2016—the accident happened when an unidentified motorcycle driver tried to pass the automated vehicle just as it was moving back into a lane:
Identifying a space between two vehicles (a minivan in front and a sedan behind) in the left lane, the Cruise AV began to merge into that lane. At the same time, the minivan decelerated. Sensing that its gap was closing, the Cruise AV stopped making its lane change and returned fully to the center lane.
As the Cruise AV was re-centering itself in the lane, a motorcycle that that had just lane-split between two vehicles in the center and right lanes moved into the center lane, glanced the side of the Cruise AV, wobbled, and fell over.
At the time of the collision, the Cruise AV was traveling with the flow of traffic at 12 miles per hour, while the motorcycle was traveling at approximately 17 miles per hour.
Cruise claims that the subsequent traffic report faulted the motorcyclist. Curbed SF is obtaining a copy of the report. The motorcyclist “reported shoulder pain and was taken to receive medical care.”
Of 27 reported accidents involving self-driving California cars so far in 2017, 22 have involved a Cruise vehicle. But most were minor cases of scrapes, dings, and rear-endings that resulted in no injury and only small property damage.
The San Francisco Chronicle calls the December 7 incident Cruise’s first reported injury, but technically there was a crash in May where a cyclist “scraped his knee” and another in October in which the self-driving car’s human operator (as always in the state of California, automated cars require human supervision behind the wheel on public roads) “later sought medical evaluation for shoulder stiffness” himself.
Incidentally, a Cruise robot was also the victim of a hit and run in September, and the company claims an irate cyclist damaged one of its cars earlier the same month. Because why should driving in the city be any easier for robots than for humans?