What just happened? GM's self-driving subsidiary, Cruise, has denied that one of its autonomous taxis hampered first responders trying to access the scene of a mass shooting in San Francisco last Friday. The shooting took place shortly after 9 p.m. in the city's Mission District near the intersection of 24th Street and Treat Avenue, and injured nine people in what the police described as a 'targeted and isolated' incident.
In the aftermath of the shooting, a Cruise autonomous taxi was seen stranded in the middle of the road, seemingly blocking emergency crews from accessing the crime scene. A video posted on Twitter by @paulvaldezsf seems to show a police officer complaining that the car is "blocking emergency medical and fire."
The post has since gone viral on Twitter, garnering over 200,000 views, with hundreds of 'likes' and 'retweets.' Some users replying to the post blamed GM and its autonomous vehicle for blocking first responders from getting to the victims, while others complained about seeing another Cruise vehicle stopping dead in the middle of the road and blocking traffic at another location in San Francisco a few weeks earlier.
Fellow Mission friends. Please stay away from 24th/Folsom. Gunshots fired; reckless Cruise cars. pic.twitter.com/fICRtS6e05– Paul Valdez ðÂÂ²ðÂÂ³ï¸ÂðÂÂÂ (@paulvaldezsf) June 10, 2023
Cruise, meanwhile, has denied that its stalled car hampered first responders from doing their job. In a statement posted on Twitter, the company expressed solidarity with the victims and said "Our car initially stopped as it was approaching an active emergency scene, then proceeded to perform a U-turn and pull over. Throughout this time, all vehicles, including emergency response vehicles, were able to proceed around our car."
Talking to the San Francisco Chronicle, a Cruise spokesperson also claimed that there was a lane of traffic open next to the stalled car, allowing emergency vehicles to pass through. They also clarified that once the company became aware of the situation, an employee arrived within half an hour to move the car. However, by then, the vehicle had been surrounded by police tape.
The San Francisco Fire Department did not issue a statement on the incident, but San Francisco police told The Guardian that they are "actively investigating" an incident involving an autonomous vehicle at the crime scene, despite initially refusing to confirm the car's presence at the location.
Autonomous vehicles are becoming increasingly more common across some parts of the U.S., but many have questioned whether the technology is ready for prime time. Over the years, there have been several reports of stalled cars, fender benders, and even fatal accidents, including the one where an Uber self-driving car killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, in 2018. More recently, a self-driving Jaguar I-Pace from Google's Waymo ran over and killed a dog in San Francisco last month, raising more concerns about the safety of autonomous driving technologies.