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Cruise defends safety record after woman pinned under self-driving taxi in San Francisco

The image of a woman pinned under a driverless taxi in San Francisco on Monday is raising new questions about the safety of autonomous vehicles.
The woman was hospitalized in critical condition after firefighters were able to free her from beneath the driverless Cruise AV, which struck her shortly after she was hit by a different sedan in a hit-and-run.
Video from the Cruise vehicle viewed by CBS News showed the woman crossing against the light and getting hit by the sedan. She is then launched into the path of the self-driving car.
“At approximately 9:30 pm on October 2, a human-driven vehicle struck a pedestrian while traveling in the lane immediately to the left of a Cruise AV,” Cruise said in a statement on social media. “The initial impact was severe and launched the pedestrian directly in front of the AV. The AV then braked aggressively to minimize the impact. The driver of the other vehicle fled the scene, and at the request of the police the AV was kept in place.”
San Francisco police are investigating the crash.
“The real question in this investigation will be could a human driver have detected the person in the road more quickly than the autonomous system could have,” said Robert Sumwalt, CBS News transportation safety analyst and the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
A spokesperson for Cruise told CBS News the Cruise AV detected the woman “both before and after they made contact with the adjacent vehicle.”
Cruise said its vehicles are involved in 65% fewer collisions than rideshares driven by people.
Cruise also told CBS News its vehicles were “either legally stopped, rear-ended, or had the right of way,” in the “vast majority” of incidents it has reported to regulators.
But in August, the company cut its Bay Area fleet by 50% after two accidents on the same day.
The driverless taxis have also drawn public outcry, with some residents disabling the vehicles by placing traffic cones on their hoods.
Mitchell Kelder, who was visiting San Francisco, told CBS News it’s “a little scary that your fate is in someone else’s hands or some technology’s hands.”
San Francisco is not the only city to have issues with autonomous taxis. In Austin, there was mass confusion last month when several Cruise AVs all stopped in the same area, clogging streets.
Cruise operates about 400 self-driving vehicles across the country. The company has never had a fatal accident and said it is cooperating with San Francisco authorities to help identify the hit-and-run driver.

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