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Self-Driving Car Hits Cyclist in San Francisco

By: Bridget Clerkin June 20, 2017
The self-driving Chevrolet Bolt has been implicated in multiple collisions as the autonomous technology learns to navigate humans.

It’s been just over three months since California proposed looser testing regulations on self-driving vehicles, and already the state has seen several accidents involving the autonomous autos.

On May 25th, a bicyclist traveling in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood collided with a self-driving car, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The rider sustained minor injuries in the collision with the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which was in self-driving mode at the time of the incident. While the bicyclist, who suffered a scraped knee, told the occupant of the Chevrolet that they intended to seek out medical attention, no police or ambulances were called to the scene, according to local news reports.

The accident occurred during evening rush hour, when the Chevy was making a left-hand turn onto Mission Street, using the outer of two turning lanes. The autonomous auto quickly braked when it was cut off by the car from the inner turning lane, causing the biker, who was riding behind it, to strike the back of the self-driving vehicle, according to the DMV report. The car incurred a scratch while the bike received little to no damage.

Strangely, a strikingly similar incident involving another Chevrolet Bolt occurred the same day in the same city. The second accident also happened during a left-hand turn, when the driverless Chevy was cut off by a bus, stopping short and causing a collision with a minivan behind it, the DMV report states. No injuries were recorded in that case.

The incidents account for two of seven traffic accidents involving self-driving vehicles in California this year alone—including six collisions since the March 10th introduction of the newly-proposed self-driving test regulations in the state.

All told, there have been 32 reported incidents in the Golden State since the California DMV started keeping tabs on self-driving car accidents in 2014. About half of those incidents occurred last year.

There have been 32 reported wrecks in California since the state's DMV started keeping tabs on self-driving car accidents in 2014. About half of those incidents occurred in 2016.

Google prototypes have been involved in more accidents than any other manufacturer by far—with 24 incidents all together—although the tech giant has been in the self-driving game longer than most other companies.

The pair of San Francisco incidents marks the latest episode of self-driving car crashes in the country. While most of the occurrences have been relatively minor, one accident caused the death of the self-driving car passenger and another resulted in a vehicle rolling over onto its side.

With the vehicular death toll on the rise, the ability to reduce deadly driving accidents has long been a central argument for the rapid development of the technology used by both the auto manufacturers and the federal government, although placing our roadway responsibilities in the hands of robots has caused a few ethical quandaries for engineers designing the vehicles.

Indeed, it seems in most accidents involving a driverless car country-wide, the fault rested not with the autonomous auto but with the human driver. Until that last man-made obstacle can be cleared, autonomous autos may have to stay wary of us on the road.

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