A driverless taxi in San Francisco left a woman screaming in pain after she was trapped under it moments after being hit by a human driver.
The pedestrian was struck in a hit and run collision that threw her into the path of a driverless vehicle that then ran her over, stopping on top of her leg and remaining there until she was rescued by police, a witness told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The woman was admitted to hospital and is in a critical condition after the incident, which required the stationary car to be lifted off the ground, San Francisco’s fire department said. She had been walking through moving traffic at a green light in the city’s downtown.
The case is among the most serious accidents involving driverless cars in San Francisco since two companies, Waymo and Cruise, were granted licences to provide 24/7 robotaxi services to the general public in August.
Witnesses said the car, operated by Cruise, ran the pedestrian over before stopping with its rear axle and tyre on her leg and turning on its hazard lights before the car was shut off remotely. The initial driver who hit the woman fled the scene.
‘The initial impact was severe’
Cruise said that the car, which did not have passengers in it, remained in place at the request of the police and that it had braked rapidly to minimise the impact of the crash.
A spokesman said: “At approximately 9:30 pm on Oct 2, a human-driven vehicle struck a pedestrian while travelling in the lane immediately to the left of a Cruise AV [autonomous vehicle]. The initial impact was severe and launched the pedestrian directly in front of the AV. The AV then braked aggressively to minimise the impact.
“The driver of the other vehicle fled the scene, and at the request of the police, the AV was kept in place. Our heartfelt concern and focus is the wellbeing of the person who was injured and we are actively working with police to help identify the responsible driver.”
The incident is the latest controversy surrounding driverless cars since they were approved in one of the biggest public experiments with the technology to date.
Cruise robotaxis have been accused of holding up emergency vehicles and causing regular traffic jams as the cars freeze when faced with unfamiliar situations.
In August, the company, which is majority owned by car-making giant General Motors, was ordered to cut its fleet in half while authorities investigate crashes.
Waymo, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has had fewer incidents but one of its cars killed a dog that had run into the road in June.
Local politicians have called for the companies’ permissions to be revoked, saying the cars need to be made safer.