A Cruise autonomous taxi in San Francisco.

Driver hits pedestrian, pushing her into path of self-driving car in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO — A hit-and-run driver struck a pedestrian Monday night, tossing her into the path of a Cruise self-driving car that then drove over her, according to videos of the collision taken by Cruise in San Francisco and seen by NBC News. 

The woman who was hit was in critical condition on Tuesday morning, according to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Video and photos of the incident posted online showed the woman underneath the Cruise vehicle as emergency personnel arrived on the scene.

San Francisco police said in a statement that the driver of the car that hit the woman did not remain on the scene and that they were investigating the factors that led to the collision. The police did not immediately say who they believed was at fault.

The collision is the latest traffic incident in San Francisco involving autonomous vehicles, a novel technology in which every possible mistake is scrutinized by city residents and officials. Cruise and its competitor Waymo operate fleets of robotaxis in the city with no human drivers present.

City officials have criticized the driverless cars for at times getting confused and blocking emergency vehicles, while the companies have emphasized their safety record: No one has died as a result of using the Cruise and Waymo cars, while deaths involving human drivers are on the rise locally and nationally. 

The collision happened about 9:30 p.m. PT Monday at the intersection of 5th and Market streets, according to police and the videos from Cruise. It’s a busy intersection with multiple travel lanes in each direction. 

Read More:   Prince Harry settles a tabloid phone hacking claim and says his mission to tame the media continues

Cruise cuts robotaxi fleet in half after multiple incidents in San Francisco

Aug. 23, 202302:08

Cruise said in a statement that the human-driven vehicle struck the pedestrian while traveling in the lane immediately to the left of the Cruise car. 

Cruise allowed NBC News to view videos of the collision taken by the car’s various cameras, including a front-facing camera and a camera facing the car’s left side that appeared to confirm that account. The graphic videos include the moment when the human-driven car strikes the pedestrian.

At the time of the collisions, the front of the Cruise car was about half a car length behind the front of the human-driven car, according to the videos. 

“The initial impact was severe and launched the pedestrian directly in front of the AV. The AV then braked aggressively to minimize the impact,” Cruise said, using the abbreviation for autonomous vehicle. 

Photos published by the San Francisco Chronicle showed a Cruise car stopped with a body underneath its rear axle. Police said in a statement that they had asked Cruise not to move its car. 

“At the scene of any vehicle collision, we document what occurred by gathering evidence. This evidence includes the location of the vehicle and/or vehicles before, during and after the collision, which is why the vehicle was kept in its stationary position,” police said. 

The robotaxi had no passengers at the time, police said.

Other human drivers have also failed to stay at the scenes of collisions in which an autonomous vehicle is involved. NBC News reported in March that there were 36 instances in 2022 in which a person driving a car or truck left the scene of a crash involving an autonomous vehicle, according to reports written by employees of the tech companies and filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. 

Read More:   Two Indicators: Economics of the defense industry

Cruise, a startup that is majority-owned by General Motors, said it was cooperating with the investigation. 

“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 company said in a statement.

David Ingram

David Ingram covers tech for NBC News.