Cruise says robotaxi didn't delay San Francisco ambulance

Cruise is at odds with the San Francisco Fire Department over a death the city partly attributed to two autonomous vehicles blocking an ambulance.

Fire officials said the robotaxis operated by the General Motors-backed company caused a slight delay after a human-driven vehicle struck a pedestrian Aug. 14.

“This delay, no matter how minimal, contributed to a poor patient outcome,” the incident report said. “The fact that Cruise autonomous vehicles continue to block ingress and egress to critical 911 calls is unacceptable.”

Cruise says it has video disproving the accusation, and a TV station that obtained a copy agreed with the company’s rebuttal.

“The first vehicle promptly clears the area once the light turns green and the other stops in the lane to yield to first responders who are directing traffic,” a Cruise spokesperson said in a statement to NBC Bay Area. “Throughout the entire duration the AV is stopped, traffic remains unblocked and flowing to the right of the AV. The ambulance behind the AV had a clear path to pass the AV as other vehicles, including the ambulance, proceeded to do so. As soon as the victim was loaded into the ambulance, the ambulance left the scene immediately and was never impeded from doing so by the AV.”

The TV station said Cruise refused to share the video. But reporter Gia Vang procured a 13-minute copy and said Cruise’s description was accurate. “I can see what the company describes, including an ambulance that was able to get by that second stopped Cruise vehicle, though it was a bit of a squeeze,” Vang said.

The incident isn’t the only source of tension between emergency responders and autonomous vehicle companies operating in San Francisco. A city official told NBC Bay Area that there have been more than 70 reported cases of AVs interfering in emergency situations.

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