Incident 175: Cruise Autonomous Taxi Allegedly Bolted off from Police After Being Pulled over in San Francisco

Description: An autonomous Chevy Bolt operated by Cruise was pulled over in San Francisco, and as the police attempted to engage with the car, it reportedly bolted off, pulled over again, and put on its hazards lights on at a point farther down the road.
Alleged: Cruise developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed San Francisco public and Cruise customers.

Suggested citation format

Anonymous. (2022-04-01) Incident Number 175. in McGregor, S. (ed.) Artificial Intelligence Incident Database. Responsible AI Collaborative.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
175
Report Count
5
Incident Date
2022-04-01
Editors
Sean McGregor, Khoa Lam

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Incidents Reports

Over the weekend, a GM Cruise converted Chevy Bolt without a driver was pulled over by San Francisco Police. In an unexpected turn, the car “bolted” to a safe spot. Cruise responded.

The original Instagram poster noted that this occurred in the Richmond District of San Francisco last week.

b.rad916: Confused SFPD pulling over an #autonomousvehicle in the Richmond District!! Then it tries to take off!! 😆 🚔 1 week

GM’s Cruise vehicles have been operating autonomously in San Francisco at night, giving rides to employees around the city.

Cruise vehicles have been operating in San Francisco autonomously for months seemingly without incident and have recently been joined by Google’s Waymo vehicles.

Welcome to the future. Cop pulls over driverless car (because no lights?) Then Cruise goes on the lamb. (via https://instagram.com/tv/Cb1q-vggFn9/)

There are some great takes in the twitter feed:

Brian @NHTSArecalls @NHTSAgov

Yall better check on this. If these vehicles can't properly turn on lights when driving at night that's a bigger deal than Tesla owners talking through an external speaker, that's only purpose is to get pedestrian attention. 🙄

Franklin Tabor

I think the bigger deal here is that they didn't even get to rough anyone up. Will someone please think of the police for once

Update: Cruise just responded:

@Cruise

Chiming in with more details: our AV yielded to the police vehicle, then pulled over to the nearest safe location for the traffic stop, as intended. An officer contacted Cruise personnel and no citation was issued. We work closely with the SFPD on how to interact with our vehicles, including a dedicated phone number for them to call in situations like this.

Electrek’s take:

Wow, this is quite interesting and it seems Cruise’s vehicle responded as intended though it is still uncertain why it was pulled over in the first place.

What do you think, it this a victory for autonomous vehicles or something to be concerned about?

GM Cruise autonomous taxi pulled over by police in San Francisco without humans, 'bolts' off

It’s been a little over two months since Cruise started letting the people of San Francisco catch rides on its driverless robotaxis, and one of its cars already had a run-in with police. In a video originally posted to Instagram last weekend, the user captures the awkward — and somewhat comical — interaction between the San Francisco Police Department and the autonomous vehicle after it’s pulled over for not having its lights on.

After stopping the Chevy Bolt-turned-Cruise vehicle, a police officer goes up to its window, tries to (unsuccessfully) open the door, and starts walking back to his cruiser. The autonomous vehicle begins to drive away in what at first seems like the perfect start to a police chase, but then pulls over and puts its hazards on at a point farther down the road. Police drive up behind the vehicle once again, get out of the car, and then hover around the vehicle as they presumably try to figure out how to turn its headlights back on.

Welcome to the future. Cop pulls over driverless car (because no lights?) Then Cruise goes on the lamb. (via https://instagram.com/tv/Cb1q-vggFn9/)

As Cruise spokesperson Aaron Mclear explained to The Verge, the autonomous vehicle didn’t drive away to escape from police — it was trying to find a safer location to pull over in, a move that most human drivers can’t get away with so easily. Mclear also confirmed that the SFPD pulled over the vehicle for not having its headlights on, and says Cruise has since fixed the issue.

“The vehicle yielded to the police car, then pulled over to the nearest safe location for the traffic stop,” Mclear said. “An officer contacted Cruise personnel and no citation was issued. We work closely with the SFPD on how to interact with our vehicles and have a dedicated phone number for them to call in situations like this.”

Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, uses LIDAR technology to power its vehicles’ self-driving capabilities. The company has been using the cars to shuttle around its San Francisco-based employees since 2017, but only just opened a waiting list to taxi the city’s general population.

We still don’t know what exactly caused the Cruise vehicle to operate without its headlights. Perhaps the car’s automatic headlights feature was disabled or failed to detect the darkness around it. Either way, it is a bit concerning. Cruise vehicles are only authorized to drive from 10PM to 6AM, which obviously makes headlights pretty important.

In 2018, a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian walking her bike across the road in Tempe, Arizona. Subsequent investigations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that Uber turned off Volvo’s factory emergency braking system to prevent any interaction with Uber’s self-driving software, but it’s unclear whether that contributed to the crash.

Here’s what happens when cops pull over a driverless Cruise vehicle

The future is a weird place.

Since February, GM’s Cruise self-driving unit has offered public taxi rides in San Francisco. And for the most part, it seems the service hasn’t run into any notable problems. That is until a strange situation played out last weekend when one of the company’s vehicles left police seemingly confused by its response to a routine traffic stop.

The video you see above was first posted on April 2nd but only began to circulate widely after 9to5 publisher Seth Weintraub shared it on his personal Twitter account on Saturday. It shows San Francisco police attempting to pull over a driverless Cruise vehicle in the city’s Richmond District, only for the car to temporarily take off as a group of onlookers watch the scene in disbelief.

One day after Weintraub shared the video, Cruise commented on the clip, stating its vehicle yielded to police and moved to the nearest safe location for that traffic stop. “An officer contacted Cruise personnel and no citation was issued,” the company said. “We work closely with the SFPD on how to interact with our vehicles, including a dedicated phone number for them to call in situations like this.”

It’s unclear why police stopped the vehicle, but it would appear the car didn’t have its front lights on. It's safe to say we may see more episodes like the one that played out on April 2nd occur as autonomous vehicles become a more common sight on US roads. It should come as no surprise then Cruise produced a video designed to teach first responders how to approach its vehicles. Check it out above.

An autonomous Cruise vehicle left police confused when they tried to pull it over

The incident highlights legal challenges around road safety and autonomous vehicles, especially when there is no driver at the wheel.

A video which has gone viral shows a driverless car start to pull away after being stopped by police, at least initially - raising questions about how authorities can handle autonomous vehicles.

The car, owned and operated by a company called Cruise in San Francisco, is based on a Chevy Bolt chassis - although the company plans to launch a completely original vehicle soon.

After police pull over the car - for potentially not having its lights on, the video shows an officer walking up to the car door - appearing to be surprised to discover it has no driver - and then unsuccessfully attempting to open it.

After failing, he begins to walk back to his car, but the autonomous Cruise vehicle - which is allowed to drive at night in the city - zooms off in what initially looks like a getaway attempt.

However the car quickly turns its hazard lights on and then pulls in to a safer spot just down the road. The video shows the police following before stopping.

In a statement on Twitter the company said: "Our AV yielded to the police vehicle, then pulled over to the nearest safe location for the traffic stop, as intended. An officer contacted Cruise personnel and no citation was issued."

"We work closely with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) on how to interact with our vehicles, including a dedicated phone number for them to call in situations like this," the company added.

SFPD has not issued a comment.

The trial in San Francisco comes ahead of completely self-driving cars being tested on the roads of the UK.

The Law Commission of England and Wales, and the Scottish Law Commission, want legal protections to be introduced for owners of self-driving cars if anything goes wrong with the automation.

However, whoever is in the driver's seat should still be responsible for things like insurance and children wearing seatbelts, the commissions said.

It is not clear how police in Britain could interact with a driverless car to ensure these forms of road safety compliance.

Two years ago a modified version of the Nissan LEAF completed the UK's longest autonomous car journey by driving itself the 230 miles from Cranfield in Bedfordshire to Nissan's manufacturing plant in Sunderland.

According to Nissan, the only times a human driver had to take over during the course of the journey was when the car had to drive into motorway services to be charged.

In April 2021 the Department for Transport announced hands-free driving in vehicles with lane-keeping technology would be allowed on congested motorways at speeds of up to 37mph.

Matthew Avery, chief research strategy officer at road safety organisation Thatcham Research, which consulted for the report, warned the transition to self-driving vehicles is "fraught with risk".

He said: "In the next 12 months, we're likely to see the first iterations of self-driving features on cars in the UK.

"It's significant that the Law Commission report highlights the driver's legal obligations and how they must understand that their vehicle is not yet fully self-driving."

Driverless car starts to pull away after being stopped by police

A video of a driverless car being pulled over by police in San Francisco has been watched more than 1.2 million times.

B.rad916 posted a clip on Instagram of a self-driving car belonging to General Motors' Cruise line interacting with San Francisco Police Department officers. They were trying to stop the vehicle driving down in the Richmond District for failing to have its headlights on, GM revealed.

In the video, an SFPD officer gets out of the police car and a voice can be heard saying "Ain't nobody in it." The officer looks inside the car and tries to open the driver's door, but walks away from the vehicle when that remains locked.

The driverless car then immediately drives on for a few feet before turning on its yellow lights and stopping on the right-hand side of the road. The police vehicle follows suit and two officers approach the car.

Many social media users have identified that move as an attempted escape from the driverless car, but a Cruise spokesperson told The Verge that the vehicle was just looking for a safer location to stop.

Passersby can be heard saying: "Are you serious?" and: "Oh my god I have to watch this," before asking the man taking the video to send the clip to them. One officer can then be seen on a call while the other observes the car, with observers laughing and saying "That's so weird!"

SFPD police officers then continue circling the car and looking inside, apparently confused about how to proceed. A third police officer appears at the end of the clip.

The vehicle, a GM Cruise-converted Chevy Bolt, was one of the several company's self-driving cars GM has used since 2017 to give its employees rides around the city, and now also deploys to deliver Walmart groceries.

In February this year, GM offered free rides to non-employees on its Cruise driverless vehicles for the first time.

Cruise responded to Electrek's journalist Seth Weintraub sharing the viral clip on Twitter by saying that "our AV yielded to the police vehicle, then pulled over to the nearest safe location for the traffic stop, as intended. An officer contacted Cruise personnel and no citation was issued."

"We work closely with the SFPD on how to interact with our vehicles, including a dedicated phone number for them to call in situations like this," Cruise added in a second tweet.

A video from Cruise explaining how the vehicles interact with police and emergency vehicles says that Cruise cars can pick up emergency sirens and lights from police. The video instructs first responders to contact the Cruise critical response line when approaching the vehicle to make sure that the vehicle has safely stopped and to see if it's cruising on autonomous or manual mode.

The Cruise team can then evaluate whether to unlock the vehicle.

According to U.S. regulations, driverless cars must respect the same standards of safety required by traditional passenger cars. Cruise told Newsweek that the issue that led to the vehicle being stopped last week has been fixed.

Newsweek has reached out to the SFPD for comment.

Video of Police Pulling Over Driverless Car Viewed 1.2 Million Times