A driverless Cruise autonomous vehicle collided with a semi-truck in San Francisco on 7 August, General Motors' autonomous driving unit confirmed.
The accident was first reported on Twitter by Alf Santos (@alfsan), who posted a short video and photos with the aftermath of the crash, which happened in San Francisco near Golden Gate Park area.
Looking at the video, it appears that the Chevrolet Bolt EV-based autonomous ride-hailing vehicle had been by hit the semi-truck's trailer, which appeared to be involved in a "swing wide" manoeuvre, temporarily blocking the road at the time of the collision. The footage showed the truck backing away from the Cruise car, which sustained damage to its passenger-side mirror and one of its cameras, as well as a flat tyre.
Cruise, which recently ran a controversial ad saying humans are terrible drivers, responded to the tweet that reported the collision and said the semi-truck was in the right lane when it tried to turn left as the Cruise car was passing.
"We're actively investigating, but we can confirm that the truck attempted a left turn from the right lane while our car was passing. The AV came to a complete stop to avoid a collision when it detected the truck beginning to move, but the truck continued and struck our vehicle."
The company added that there were no passengers in the Cruise AV at the time, and no injuries were reported.
Now, the General Motors unit's statement does not seem to account for another possibility that appears likely in this case, namely that the semi-truck was performing a "swing wide" manoeuvre – albeit a rather poorly executed one – at the time the Cruise AV drove too close to it.
Semi-truck drivers often need to "swing wide" to account for the extended length of their vehicles when turning. More specifically, the truck must briefly enter an adjacent lane to the left or right in order to provide enough room to complete the turn without running over the curb.
It's possible that the Cruise robotaxi didn't recognise this type of manoeuvre, but even so, the fact that it stopped in the path of the turning semi as the truck was signalling a left turn does not look very good.
Cruise autonomous vehicles have been involved in several incidents in San Francisco since the city allowed the company to offer fully driverless rides in 2021. Most of the incidents consisted of Cruise vehicles getting stuck in intersections blocking traffic, but there were also more serious events.
In June 2022, a Cruise AV was involved in an accident with a Toyota Prius after the robotaxi turned left in front of the oncoming Prius. One passenger in the Cruise car was taken to the hospital, while four more passengers (two from the robotaxi and two from the Toyota) needed medical attention for minor injuries.
Then in March 2023, a Cruise AV rear-ended a San Francisco municipal bus that was on the right lane of the road. No people were injured as the self-driving car carried no passengers at the time. However, the incident triggered a recall of 300 Cruise AVs for a fix consisting of a software update.