It’s been just over two months since Cruise started letting San Francisco residents take turns on his driverless robotaxis, and one of his cars has already had a run-in with police. In a video originally posted to Instagram last weekend, the user captures the awkward – and somewhat comedic – interaction between the San Francisco Police Department and the self-driving vehicle after it pulled over for not have his lights on.
After stopping the Chevy Bolt-turned-Cruise vehicle, a policeman climbs to his window, tries (unsuccessfully) to open the door, and begins walking towards his cruiser. The self-driving vehicle begins to pull away in what at first glance seems like the perfect start to a police chase, but then stops and puts its dangers at a point further down the road. The police again arrive behind the vehicle, exit the car, then circle the vehicle as they presumably try to figure out how to turn its headlights back on.
As Cruise spokesperson Aaron Mclear explained to The edge, the self-driving vehicle didn’t pull away to evade the police – it was trying to find a safer place to stop, a move that most human drivers can’t get away with so easily. Mclear also confirmed that the SFPD shut down the vehicle for not having its headlights on, and says Cruise has since resolved the issue.
“The vehicle gave way to the police cruiser and then pulled to the nearest safe location for the traffic stop,” Mclear said. “An officer has contacted Cruise personnel and no citations have been issued. We are working closely with the SFPD on how to interact with our vehicles and we have a dedicated phone number they can call in situations like this.
Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, uses LIDAR technology to power the self-driving capabilities of its vehicles. The company has been using the cars to commute among its San Francisco-based employees since 2017, but only just opened up a taxi waitlist for the city’s general population.
We still don’t know exactly what caused the Cruise vehicle to run without its headlights. Perhaps the car’s automatic headlights feature was disabled or failed to detect the darkness around it. Either way, it’s a bit worrying. Cruisers are only allowed to drive from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., which obviously makes headlights pretty important.
In 2018, a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian who was crossing the road on a bicycle in Tempe, Arizona. Subsequent investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that Uber had disabled Volvo’s factory emergency braking system to prevent interaction with Uber’s self-driving software, but it is not clear whether this contributed to the accident.