A few weeks ago in San Francisco, as emergency services were trying to retreat from the scene where a man was seriously injured, two Cruise robotaxis allegedly blocked the path of an ambulance, not understanding that they should move out of the way. Shortly after, the man died, and these autonomous vehicles were blamed for the man's death by preventing the ambulance from passing.
Tensions between San Francisco residents and the robotaxis population have been notable since a state-level decision allowed hundreds of autonomous vehicles to hit Bay Area roads a few weeks ago, and this episode only confirmed the worst fears of residents. residents.
The fact that these cars had impeded an ambulance, with fatal results, seemed to confirm their worst suspicions. Additionally, a widely reported public safety report showed that emergency services involved in the incident had specifically blamed Cruise cars for their slow response. This triggered a series of news stories accusing robotaxis of being directly responsible for the incident.
However, it has now become clear that the story is more complicated than it seems. On the one hand, city authorities have clarified, weeks later, that Cruise was not responsible for the man's death. On the other hand, it has been revealed that the man was fatally hit by a municipal bus, meaning that, although emergency services partially blamed self-driving cars for the tragic outcome, it was a vehicle operated by a human driver that injured him. to man first.
As reported by the San Francisco Standard this week, the victim in question, Sammy Davis, 69, was a homeless man who, on August 14, fell to the ground behind a municipal bus and was subsequently beaten and seriously injured. . Neither the bus driver nor the passengers seemed to notice that Davis had been hit.
Shortly after the incident, emergency services arrived and, after putting him in the ambulance, had the unfortunate encounter with Cruise's vehicles. In an initial report from the Fire Department, which Forbes obtained through a public information request, emergency responders were clearly upset by the role robotaxis played in the incident. This is what the report said:
"The patient was prepared for transport with life-threatening injuries, but we were unable to leave the scene initially due to the Cruise vehicles not moving. This delay, however minimal, contributed to a poor outcome for the patient... "The fact that Cruise's autonomous vehicles continue to block access to critical 911 calls is unacceptable."
Cruise denied accusations from the beginning that his vehicles had anything to do with Davis' death, arguing that only 90 seconds passed from when he was placed on a stretcher until the man left the scene.
However, this week, the Fire Department issued a statement clarifying that Cruise had not been officially blamed for Davis' death. "The San Francisco Fire Chief did not attribute this pedestrian death to the Cruise vehicles," said a joint statement from the fire chief and the city's Municipal Transportation Agency. The statement goes on to partially blame media reports that were based "on an internal report from an SFFD staff member at the scene" for the perception that Cruise was responsible for the man's death. "The city sends our deepest condolences to the victim's family and friends," the statement concludes.
Following that update from the Fire Department, Cruise also reacted: "Nothing diminishes the tragedy of a life lost, but we appreciate the clarification from the fire chief that they have not attributed this to Cruise. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with SFFD on our shared goal of safety road".
It seems that Cruise did not want to add more fuel to the fallen tree and settled for that public rectification. However, in the city of San Francisco there is still a lot of "run-run" about what happened, since this intersection of accusations is included in the framework of a kind of campaign against autonomous cars that the Fire Department is leading.
Whether or not Cruise was responsible for this particular incident, it seems clear that San Francisco is undergoing controversial changes to the city as the self-driving industry uses the Bay Area as a giant testing ground for its robotaxis experiment. .
So, with these circumstances and the strong campaign against it, it is understandable that residents feel upset and even alarmed. Tension between the fire department and the robotaxis industry does not appear to be going away anytime soon as they remain concerned about a new and somewhat experimental technology that has the potential to congest traffic and cause dangerous accidents without an human hand at the wheel that can solve compromised situations.