SAN FRANCISCO - A passenger in a driverless Cruise vehicle suffered injuries on Thursday after the vehicle was struck by a San Francisco fire truck that was responding to an emergency call.
Now, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has requested the autonomous vehicle company cut its San Francisco fleet in half, following this latest incident. Cruise told KTVU the company will comply with that request.
The collision took place at 10:23 p.m. at the intersection of Turk and Polk streets, according to the San Francisco Police Department.
Authorities said that the fire truck was in "Code 3" emergency mode, which means its red lights and sirens were activated at the time of the crash.
The autonomous taxi had one passenger inside who was taken to a local hospital with injuries that are not considered life-threatening.
The police department did not disclose whether the driverless car yielded to the fire truck but emphasized that all vehicles, bicycles, and scooters are mandated to get out of the way of emergency vehicles that have activated lights and sirens.
"Failing to yield to emergency vehicles, can slow responses to emergency calls for service, and, in some cases, prevent the emergency vehicle from being able to respond at all," the department wrote in a statement."
Cruise said on social media that it is aware of the incident involving one of its vehicles.
"Our primary concern is the rider and their welfare, and we have reached out to offer support. We are also deeply mindful of the well-being of the first responders and any individuals affected by this incident," the company said.
The company said it is investigating the incident to better understand their AVs' (autonomous vehicle) performance and will be in contact with the city.
In their statement to KTVU, the DMV said they are also investigating the recent concerns of AVs in San Francisco and that they are in contact with both Cruise and law enforcement. "Safety of the traveling public is the California DMV's top priority," the statement read. They said the focus of regulation is to ensure safe operation of AVs and the safety of the public who share the road with these vehicles.
Per the new agreement with the DMV, Cruise will have no more than 50 driverless vehicles in operation during the day and 150 driverless vehicles in operation at night. The DMV also reserves the right to suspend or revoke testing and/or deployment permits if they determine there to be an unreasonable public safety risk.
Cruise sent a follow-up statement on the DMV agreement.
"We believe it’s clear that Cruise positively impacts overall road safety, and look forward to working with the CA DMV to make any improvements and provide any data they need to reinforce the safety and efficiency of our fleet," a Cruise spokesperson said.
"These vehicles are equipped with external microphones that are supposed to pick up the sound of sirens from emergency vehicles and trigger them to pull over and stop," said autonomous vehicle expert Sam Abuelsamid of Guidehouse Insights. "So while the vehicle in general had the right of way, because it was going through a green light intersection, it probably should have been able to pick up that fire truck approaching and at least slow down before entering the intersection."
Cruise shared additional information regarding the crash, stating: "The AV positively identified the emergency vehicle almost immediately as it came into view, which is consistent with our underlying safety design and expectation. It is worth noting, however, that the confines of this specific intersection make visual identification more challenging – for humans and AVs alike – as it is significantly occluded by buildings, meaning that this is not possible to see objects around the corner until they are physically very close to the intersection."
Cruise went on to say the AV's ability to avoid the emergency vehicle was "complicated by the fact that the emergency vehicle was in the oncoming lane of traffic, which it had moved into to bypass the red light." You can read Cruise's full statement here.
On the same evening as the fire truck collision, another Cruise vehicle was involved in a crash at 26th and Mission streets.
Cruise confirmed that no passengers were in the vehicle at the time of the crash.
The autonomous vehicle was going through a green light when it was struck by another vehicle that ran a red light at a high speed.
Although the Cruise vehicle detected the other vehicle and activated its brakes, it was unable to prevent the collision.
The driver of the other vehicle was treated at the scene and released.
These incidents occurred following a motion filed by San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu, urging state regulators to reconsider the expansion of driverless taxis in the city due to concerns over public safety.