Technology

Waymo driverless car strikes bicyclist in San Francisco, causes minor injuries

A driverless Waymo vehicle struck a cyclist in San Francisco, causing minor injuries. It was the latest incident in the city at a time when tensions around autonomous vehicles are particularly high after a driverless Cruise vehicle injured a pedestrian.

The incident, which was first reported by Reuters, occurred at 3:02PM on February 6th at the intersection of 17th and Mississippi streets in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. A Google Maps Street View of the intersection shows a flat, well-lit area surrounded by warehouses with unprotected bike lanes on both streets.

Police officers arriving at the scene found an autonomous vehicle had struck a cyclist, who only reported “non-life threatening injuries,” according to Eve Laokwansathitaya, public information officer with SFPD.

The cyclist only reported “non-life threatening injuries”

A passenger in the Waymo vehicle at the time of the crash was uninjured. The incident remains under investigation, Laokwansathitaya noted.

Waymo spokesperson Julia Ilina had more details to share. The Waymo vehicle was stopped at a four-way stop, as an oncoming large truck began to turn into the intersection. The vehicle waited until it was its turn and then also began to proceed through the intersection, failing to notice the cyclist who was traveling behind the truck.

“The cyclist was occluded by the truck and quickly followed behind it, crossing into the Waymo vehicle’s path,” Ilina said. “When they became fully visible, our vehicle applied heavy braking but was not able to avoid the collision.”

After the incident, Waymo contacted the police, but the cyclist left on their own, reporting only “minor scratches,” Ilina added.

As driverless cars appear in more cities around the world, incidents like these are bound to increase. But because the technology is still novel, even minor crashes are important to examine to ensure the companies are taking the appropriate actions in their aftermath.

Last year, Waymo’s chief rival Cruise was involved in a much more serious incident in which a pedestrian was struck by a hit-and-run driver, launching her into the path of a driverless vehicle. The Cruise vehicle then proceeded to pull over to the side of road, not realizing the victim was still stuck underneath.

The detail about the pedestrian being dragged was omitted from the company’s initial statement about the crash. And key footage from the car’s cameras wasn’t received by some regulators, including the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Cruise’s permit to operate fully driverless vehicles was suspended, and the company paused all operations nationwide.

Waymo is said to have a better reputation than Cruise among regulators. And the company certainly is emphatic that its vehicles are proven to be safer than human-driven ones. But city officials have criticized both companies for blocking roads and obstructing buses and emergency vehicles.

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