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Robotaxi Strikes Pedestrian as Doubts over Self-Driving Tech Continue

Robotaxi Strikes Pedestrian as Doubts over Self-Driving Tech Continue

Time after time, we have been told that self-driving technology will make California’s streets safer, but a string of worrying accidents throw doubt upon this argument. The latest incident involves a woman who was struck and severely injured by a self-driving vehicle in San Francisco. While the crash has placed a spotlight directly upon the robotaxi company, there are doubts about the safety of self-driving technology in general. An ongoing trial involving Tesla’s “Autopilot” feature provides a backdrop to this disturbing crash, suggesting that the hazard does not come from one specific company, but rather the concept of self-driving software as a whole. 

Woman Severely Injured by Cruise Robotaxi in San Francisco

On October 3, 2023, it was reported that a woman had been severely injured by a robotaxi in San Francisco. According to the authorities, the incident began when a human driver struck and injured a pedestrian. The impact threw the pedestrian into the middle of the road, and it was at this point that the robotaxi struck the victim. Not only was this pedestrian struck twice, but the robotaxi ended up on top of her. She was left pinned underneath the vehicle, and it was only when first responders arrived that she was freed and transported to a nearby hospital. 

The official word on this incident is that the robotaxi “was not able to stop in time.” This suggests that everything happened very quickly and that there was no way the robotaxi could have avoided the impact while traveling at a normal speed on the road. However, this somewhat dismissive attitude does not take into account the possibility of a software error. Current information from the crash report also fails to indicate whether the collision might have been averted with a human driver behind the wheel. Perhaps we will never know. 

One thing that is clear, however, is that the vehicle ended up on top of the victim. This detail is perhaps the most notable – and the most damning – for GM’s Cruise service. One might argue that a human driver would not have simply stopped the vehicle with another person trapped underneath. The exact circumstances of the crash are muddled, but what if the woman had called out to a human driver and begged them to reverse? What if a simple tap on the accelerator would have removed the full weight of the vehicle from the woman’s body? Does AI-powered self-driving software even understand the complexities of a situation like this? Does it understand when a human being is trapped underneath the vehicle?

These are some of the questions that California authorities may be asking GM in the aftermath of this crash. These questions are even more pressing when you consider the fact that this is not the first time GM’s Cruise service has been involved in a questionable incident involving first responders. Earlier this year, numerous reports stated that a Cruise robotaxi blocked the pathway of an ambulance, causing a critical loss of time that may have affected a patient’s chance of survival. Other incidents have also been reported, including various rear-end crashes associated with what authorities call “inappropriately hard braking.” 

GM has remained relatively quiet about these Cruise incidents, although a recent press release by the auto giant points out that Waymo has “more crashes than GM’s Cruise.” They specifically reference the number of crashes, stating that these statistics are backed up by local media sources such as the San Francisco Standard. While this might be true, this argument only serves to highlight the idea that using self-driving software is inherently unsafe – no matter who implements it. 

Tesla Trial Over “Full Self-Driving” Technology Continues in California

Meanwhile, Tesla continues to defend its own self-driving technology in a major California trial. On October 5, it was reported that a Tesla engineer had been called to the stand. Upon questioning by a lawyer, the engineer claimed that the company was justified in choosing the name “Full Self-Driving” when marketing its new software. 

This trial stems from a fatal Tesla accident in Los Angeles that was allegedly caused by the Autopilot software feature. According to the plaintiff, this software defect caused the vehicle to suddenly veer off a road at over 65 miles per hour before hitting a palm tree and bursting into flames. It should be noted that as of this writing, no evidence suggests that the Autopilot feature was engaged at the time of the crash. 

Crashes involving Teslas continue to occur in California. On October 2, 2023, two fatalities were reported after a wrong-way crash in Corona. For whatever reason, a Tesla Model 3 was heading the wrong way down the 91 Freeway. This led to a head-on collision with another vehicle, killing both drivers and causing a fire that engulfed the cars. Was the Tesla heading into oncoming traffic because of a software defect? It is too early to tell – but authorities are asking any witnesses to come forward. Software defects are not the only issues with Tesla vehicles, either. On October 6, it was reported that a Tesla’s batteries had exploded in Chula Vista, leaving a number of trees flattened in the wake of this accident. 

Where Can I Find a Qualified Auto Accident Lawyer in California?

If you have been searching for a qualified auto accident attorney in California, look no further than Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP. Over the years, we have assisted numerous accident victims throughout the Golden State. We know that new technology often causes new hazards for innocent motorists and pedestrians, even if this new technology is being marketed as safety-focused. Self-driving technology is only one example of an auto feature that can be defective, and there are many others. If you believe that a person, a manufacturer, or a piece of software was to blame for your crash, reach out today. During a consultation, we can help you determine the most appropriate pathway toward compensation.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.