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Freak Accident in San Francisco Traps Pedestrian Under Robotaxi ( 104

In downtown San Francisco two vehicles were stopped at a red light on Monday night, reports the Washington Post — a regular car and a Cruise robotaxi. Both vehicles advanced when the light turned green, according to witness accounts and video recorded by the Cruise vehicle's internal cameras and reviewed by The Post. As the cars moved forward, the pedestrian entered the traffic lanes in front of them, according to the video, and was struck by the regular car. The video shows the victim rolling onto that vehicle's windshield and then being flung into the path of the driverless car, which stopped once it collided with the woman. According to Cruise spokesperson Hannah Lindow, the autonomous vehicle "braked aggressively to minimize the impact" but was unable to stop before rolling over the woman and coming to a halt. Photos published by the San Francisco Chronicle show the woman's leg sticking out from underneath the car's left rear wheel.
"According to Cruise, police had directed the company to keep the vehicle stationary, apparently with the pedestrian stuck beneath it," reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Also from the San Francisco Chronicle: Austin Tutone, a bicycle delivery person, saw the woman trapped underneath the Cruise car and tried to reassure her as they waited for first-responders. "I told her, 'The ambulance is coming' and that she'd be okay. She was just screaming." He shared a photo of the aftermath with The Chronicle that appears to show the car tire on the woman's leg. San Francisco firefighters arrived and used the jaws of life to lift the car off the woman. She was transported to San Francisco General Hospital with "multiple traumatic injuries," said SFFD Capt. Justin Schorr. The victim was in critical condition as of late Tuesday afternoon, according to the hospital.

It appears that once the Cruise car sensed something underneath its rear axle, it came to a halt and turned on its hazard lights, Schorr said. Firefighters obstructed the sensors of the driverless car to alert the Cruise control center. He said representatives from Cruise responded to firefighters and "immediately disabled the car remotely."
More from the San Francisco Chronicle: "When it comes to someone pinned beneath a vehicle, the most effective way to unpin them is to lift the vehicle," Sgt. Kathryn Winters, a spokesperson for the department, said in an interview. Were a driver to move a vehicle with a person lying there, "you run the risk of causing more injury." Once the person is freed, the car must stay in place as police gather evidence including "the location of the vehicle and/or vehicles before, during and after the collision," said Officer Eve Laokwansathitaya, another spokesperson.
The human driver who struck the pedestrian immediately fled the scene, and has not yet been identified.
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Freak Accident in San Francisco Traps Pedestrian Under Robotaxi

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  • Garbage headline. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PessimysticRaven ( 1864010 ) on Saturday October 07, 2023 @09:53AM (#63908097)

    Human driver in a car struck a pedestrian, and the humans in charge of oversight of the AI car disabled it... It just happened to come to a stop on top of the prone woman. The only actual AI aspect that failed seems to be the inability to stop on a dime.

    So, effectively, we have two separate human failures in the same scenario. I'm no fan of AI, but this is a clear case of a device following human input, which happened to be poorly planned. ... Somehow, I think this was the plot of Will Smith's iRobot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      Headline: "Freak Accident in San Francisco Traps Pedestrian Under Robotaxi"

      You: "Garbage headline."

      They called it a freak accident, which makes it clear that this is not an occurrence expected to repeat, and TFS makes it clear that Cruise acted responsibly and responded to the incident immediately.

      The headline is perfectly accurate. Not a single word in it is false or misleading.

      • by Jhon ( 241832 )

        "Not a single word in it is false or misleading."

        Except that it's not surprising (or freakish) when someone walk in to traffic, against the traffic light and gets hit by a car.

        The "accident" isn't unusual in any way other than it involved an AI vehicle AFTER another vehicle that initially struck the victim (and then ran away). Certainly not "freakish".

        How about: "Idiot Californian walks in to street against traffic and gets it by a car after the state passes "freedom to walk" act"? Not a single word is

        • Re:Garbage headline. (Score:4, Informative)

          by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday October 07, 2023 @01:05PM (#63908527)

          Read TFA. Your assumptions are completely wrong - the woman was already walking in the intersection when the light turned and the cars started moving.

          "The horrific crash occurred at 9:35 p.m. at Market and Fifth streets after the traffic light turned green, giving the Cruise car and other car — which had been waiting side-by-side for the light — the right to enter the intersection where a woman was walking, according to video of the crash shown to The Chronicle by Cruise hours after the incident."

          • by Jhon ( 241832 )

            I've read a few FAs. All those that mention the video of the driverless car show that the pedestrian crossed against the light.





            "Both vehicles advanced when the light turned green, according to witness accounts and video recorded by the Cruise vehicle’s internal cameras and reviewed by The Post. ***As the cars moved forward, the pedestrian entered the traffic lanes in front of them***, according to the video, and was str

      • "The San Diego Freeway was a scene of a freak accident today, where three freaks in a camper crashed into six freaks in a van." - George Carlin

      • Some people have incredibly poor reading skills, and like to accuse everyone else of the same.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tragedy ( 27079 )

      For me, this article clearly does not say much about AI, but it does say something about human beings. A woman was trapped under a car and they had to wait for firefighters to use the jaws of life? No-one had a jack? Bystanders didn't get together to lift the car off her? I suppose people are always a little unsure what to do in an emergency like this. Plus, people might be worried that the pressure from the car might be the only thing preventing someone from dying of internal bleeding. Still, from the desc

      • Human biases (Score:5, Informative)

        by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Saturday October 07, 2023 @11:16AM (#63908235) Homepage Journal

        Okay, this happened in the city:
        1. Firefighter response might be only a couple minutes away.
        2. Safety training is that you call 911 FIRST
        3. 911 is going to tell you to NOT MOVE THE CAR - Moving the car is like pulling the arrow out of somebody. The crushing weight of the car could be stopping bleeding from the injury, and you need people on scene that can handle said bleeding when you do it. Do it early, and thing go bad they can bleed out before the paramedics are there to stop it. Note: I'm not a paramedic, but got military first aid training, so if I had an IFAK and some reason to believe that medical response would be delayed, I might try it. Because I have several options to stop bleeding with the kit.
        4. A lot of new cars aren't coming with jacks.
        5. By the time you DO dig a jack out, the firefighters are probably already pulling up.

        Indeed, per the article the first person on scene? A bicycle delivery person. They don't typically have jacks.

        • 4. A lot of new cars aren't coming with jacks.

          Not in California, where this took place. In California, when you buy a car, the salesman has to show you the spare tire and jack, BY LAW. The sale can't be completed until there's a spare and a jack in the car.
        • I had to look up IFAK. (I need to get one for my car, so thanks for the reminder.) I've found that the first aid kits that I've gotten in the past are generally only useful for the occasional bandaid. Do you have any recommendation for a good kit?


          • by Njovich ( 553857 )

            For California? Probably a gunshot trauma kit.

            • Bonus! A military-style IFAK is explicitly designed for gunshot wounds!

            • Heh. Or just a "gun trauma" kit.

              I find it interesting that California's strict gun laws were first enacted by Reagan and his Republican state congress. They didn't like the wrong people using their 2nd Amendment rights.

          • Sorry - IFAK = Individual First Aid Kit. The acronym slipped out.

            And yes, they're more than what I call "boo-boo kits" which are what MOST "first aid" kits are, that might better be called "trivial aid". To me, a good first aid kit is "keep the victim alive until the paramedics get there or we get them to the hospital".

            As for recommending a good kit, I was always issued mine, so no chance for "preference".

            If I was you, I'd go for one that has at least one tourniquet, as well as something for a chest or ot

            • Ok, I'll find something with a tourniquet. The wife was a nurse and needs to replace her old stethoscope and BP too. I'll see if there's a kit, but might be better or cheaper to DIY.

              • Not sure if you'll find a kit with a stethoscope that isn't huge with other stuff.

                I've generally found that a complete kit definitely comes cheaper than individual stuff, unless you're buying enough of the individual stuff to stock a hundred kits.

                If you're planning on adding more stuff at all though, I wouldn't count on being able to keep it in the IFAK - they weren't designed with much in the way of spare space.

            • And yeah, I'll look up the Red Cross too and see about taking their course. Local ID10T gave me a link to a site selling them, and it's easy to see that appropriate training is necessary.

    • I'm no fan of AI, but this is a clear case of a device following human input, which happened to be poorly planned.

      It was not poorly planned at all. The AI braked hard but still ended up on top of the woman and then stopped there with its hazard lights on not moving. It was then disabled to make sure that it definitely would not move because had it moved it could have caused more injury. It did exactly what it was supposed to and disabling it seems like more of a precaution to make absolutely sure it continued to do that.

      • But when did it start braking? I human would have hit the break a moment before they saw it was inevitable that the next car was going to hit the woman. How many seconds later did the AV detect something wrong?
        • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

          I human would have hit the break a moment before they saw it was inevitable that the next car was going to hit the woman.

          I think you overestimate the presence of mind of most human drivers, especially when it comes to situations they probably haven't experienced before, like this one.

          • Take the number of cars ok the road every day and divide by the actual number of accidents. You fail to put the actual number of safe and attentive drivers into perspective.
    • hmm.

      How about . . . "robotaxi brakes faster than humanly possible when pedestrian knocked in front of it by human, reducing injury in accident."

      nah, none would write that one . . .


  • Shitty editor posting old stories on a weekend.

  • The woman walked into traffic, got struck and the robotaxi reacted exactly right to a situation it had no control over. Had it not been a robotaxi, you would never have heard of this accident.


    The human driver who struck the pedestrian immediately fled the scene

    I sure hope they catch this rotter and send him to jail for many years, and that we'll get to hear about it!

    • I sure hope they catch this rotter and send him to jail for many years

      Idiot sounds far more appropriate given the description of events. Walking into moving traffic when the lights were green for the traffic very strongly suggests that this is entirely the pedestrian's fault and it was caught on video so there was clear evidence of that. Had the driver stayed on the scene the available evidence suggests that he did nothing wrong and would have had nothing to fear. However, fleeing the scene is a crime so the idiot has now managed to make trouble for themselves.

    • I suspect that you won't be able to hide long when the car behind is so loaded with sensors. Given that it's likely a poor decision one has to wonder if alcohol was involved (although it doesn't seem to have been a contributing factor).
  • The stills released show the robocar halted in the lane next to the 'sidewalk' , so how did the pedestrian manage to get hit by the mystery vehicle?
    Did the pedestrian sprint off the pavement across the path of the robocar, get hit by the second vehicle and bounce back in front of the robocar? If so, was the aggressive braking begun when the pedestrian first appeared in front of the robocar or did the robocar calculate that it would pass behind the pedestrian? If it was tracking everything and calculated th

    • According to the (original) article, the hit and run car smashed into the pedestrian making him/her fly in front of the robotaxi. People can fly pretty long distances when struck by a moving vehicle.
      • TFA seems to say the vehicle which initially hit the pedestrian was in the lane next to the Cruise. This puts the hit-and-run vehicle at least one lane away from the sidewalk. Either the pedestrian was already on the highway when both vehicles set off, and therefore should be being tracked by the Cruises sensors, or the pedestrian crossed the Cruise's lane (and was therefore visible to the sensors) and then was hit in the second lane and was thrown in front of the Cruise, or perhaps the pedestrian crossed f

  • Pedestrian walks into traffic. Gets hit by car throwing her into another vehicle. Or as we call this in most cities, Tuesday. Happens almost every day. The only thing that makes it news is an AV was involved.

    • Pedestrians stepping into traffic is standard practice in SF. Muni (the bus system) crashes into a few people every year. Mission St is has some kind of accident about twice a week. Usually involving a pedestrian or cyclist.

      Some of the issues with AV are highlighted by corner cases where emergency services are involved. I'm not saying a human driver should try to back off a person stuck on their car. But any fire fighter could enter a mundane car and operate it. That immediate control for first responders i

  • All elevators have a fire service panel that the local fire department can use to access and control the elevator in an emergency. I think every driverless vehicle should require an equivalent standardized access. Even if the City of SF said that all driverless taxis required it would be an improvement over the chaos we have today.

    • realistically, they'd only need to ever disable or put it into neutral so it can be pushed.

      They have the tools necessary to lift and move the vehicle even if it is completely disabled if they need to.

      After all, a large part of their job is responding to vehicles that have been disabled in collisions.

      • it depends which unit arrives first. not every vehicle carries the same load out of equipment. For example the CalFire pickup trucks in my neighborhood don't carry Hurst cutters, but every one of them has a chainsaw.

  • This is just AI preparing us for what it will be like living under its, wheels.
    • "If You Want a Picture of the Future, Imagine a Robotaxi Stopped on Top of a Human – for Ever".

      (apologies to Mr. Orwell)

    • This car did exactly what it should have done. It probably did so with more accuracy than a human would have. If the car beside yours hits a jaywalker, throws the jaywalker i the air at you, how would anyone, AI or human, be expected to avoid the flying human?

      If this is the future of AI, it will be a safer one than we have now.

  • The question isn't whether this sort of Final Destination cascade can happen with a robotaxi, but whether it happens less often than with a purely human-operated fleet. If there are fewer fatalities with a robotaxi fleet than without, we're ethically obligated to deploy one.
  • I wonder if the bicyclist let air out of the Car's Tire if you would help avoid or lessen further injury ?

  • Next time ... take the orange plastic cone off the hood (bonnet) of the vehicle and it will drive right off the trapped person. problem solved.


  • ...she WAS crossing against the light, stepping into moving traffic, yes?

In specifications, Murphy's Law supersedes Ohm's.