US reports claim Cruise robotaxis delayed ambulance at fatal accident

4 Sep 2023

Image: © Ryan/

Reports from emergency responders claim the automated vehicles contributed to the ‘poor patient outcome’, though Cruise denies that its vehicles delayed the ambulance.

Reports from the San Francisco Fire Department claim Cruise taxis blocked an ambulance that was trying to reach a critically injured patient, who later died from their injuries.

Two reports obtained by Forbes claim the ambulance was attempting to reach a patient who had “significant left lower extremity injuries” after a car accident. One of the reports claims the “only open lanes” were blocked by two Cruise taxis that were not moving or leaving the scene.

“The pt [patient] was packaged for transport with life-threatening injuries, but we were unable to leave the scene initially due to the Cruise vehicles not moving,” one report states. “This delay, no matter how minimal, contributed to a poor pt outcome.

“In any significant traumatic event, time is of the essence to transport the pt to definitive care in order to give them the best possible chance at survival.”

Both reports claim that the Cruise vehicles contributed to a delay in transporting the patient, which also contributed to the “poor patient outcome”. The individual was pronounced dead roughly 20 to 30 minutes after arriving at the San Francisco General Hospital.

“The fact that Cruise autonomous vehicles continue to block ingress and egress to critical 911 calls is unacceptable,” one report said.

Cruise denied the claim that the ambulance was blocked due to its autonomous vehicles and shared a video with Forbes of the incident. Forbes said this video shows a free lane that vehicles moved through, though it is unclear if the larger ambulance would have been able to navigate through it as easily.

One of the reports claims the San Francisco Police Department attempted to manually take over the autonomous vehicles “but were unsuccessful”.

The incident comes less than a month after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) granted Alphabet-owned Waymo and General Motors-owned Cruise the right to conduct commercial driverless taxi services “at any time of day” in San Francisco.

Before this change, Waymo and Cruise only had permission to offer limited services and were restricted to certain times of day and locations, as well as whether a safety driver was present in the car.

“While we do not yet have the data to judge AVs against the standard human drivers are setting, I do believe in the potential of this technology to increase safety on the roadway,” said CPUC commissioner John Reynolds at the time. Reynolds was also a former general counsel at Cruise.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic