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Patient dies after robotaxis block San Francisco ambulance

The San Francisco Fire Department said two stalled Cruise vehicles block the only exits from the scene


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By Ariana Bindman

SAN FRANCISCO — On Aug. 14, two stalled Cruise vehicles delayed an ambulance from leaving the scene of a crash in which a driver had hit a pedestrian with their car, according to reports from the San Francisco Fire Department. The pedestrian later died of their injuries, which first responders linked to the delay in getting them to the hospital.

“The fact that Cruise autonomous vehicles continue to block ingress and egress to critical 911 calls is unacceptable,” one emergency responder wrote in a report. Cruise spokesperson Tiffany Testo countered that one of the cars cleared the scene and that traffic to the right of it remained unblocked. “The ambulance behind the AV had a clear path to pass the AV as other vehicles, including another ambulance, proceeded to do,” she wrote in a statement to SFGATE.

According to several reports written by first responders, first obtained by Forbes, emergency personnel arrived at Seventh Street and Harrison in SoMa and began treating a “critically injured” pedestrian who had been struck by a car. The patient was quickly loaded into an ambulance, but the ambulance driver was unable to immediately leave the scene, according to two reports written by members of the ambulance team.

Two autonomous Cruise vehicles and an empty San Francisco police vehicle were blocking the only exits from the scene, according to one of the reports, forcing the ambulance to wait while first responders attempted to manually move the Cruise vehicles or locate an officer who could move the police car.

Collectively, these interferences “contributed to a poor patient outcome, delaying the definitive care required in severe trauma cases,” according to one of the reports. The patient reportedly died of their injuries approximately 30 minutes after arriving at San Francisco General Hospital.

SFFD representatives did not immediately respond to SFGATE’s request for comment.

Just days earlier, the California Public Utilities Commission voted to expand driverless ride-hailing services in San Francisco. In public comments sent to the commission ahead of the vote on Aug. 10, scores of residents asked commissioners to limit Cruise and Waymo’s expansion, describing the robotaxis as “death traps” and a menace to disabled people and children.

During an Aug. 7 meeting to discuss safety concerns around autonomous vehicles, San Francisco Fire Department Chief Jeanine Nicholson told the commission that her department had already recorded about 55 reports of driverless cars driving dangerously close to first responders, obstructing travel or blocking stations.

“And you might say well, 55, that’s not a lot. Well, if it’s your family, it’s a lot,” Nicholson said. “And for me, it’s not just your family, it’s everybody’s family. I’m responsible for everybody in this city. And so if we don’t get to one person, that’s one person too many that we didn’t get to.”

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