We are now learning more about an incident reported on last month by the San Francisco Fire Department in which an ambulance carrying a person who was severely injured on a SoMa street was allegedly briefly prevented from leaving the scene due to two Cruise robotaxis in the way.
The pedestrian collision happened at Seventh and Harrison streets on August 14, and we first learned of it two weeks ago. SFFD paramedics say that they were treating a gravely injured patient at the scene with "significant left lower extremity injuries requiring application of a tourniquet to control bleeding." After getting the patient into an ambulance, the paramedics say they were delayed in getting the patient to SF General.
"This delay, no matter how minimal, contributed to a poor [patient] outcome," the paramedics said in their report. The patient died about 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital.
Cruise has been voicing vehement denials about the incident, saying their vehicles responded appropriately and yielded to the ambulance (though it may be telling that they say one of the two vehicles waited for a light to turn green before it cleared the area). And the company calls it "irresponsible to try to shift the blame for this tragic event."
The SFMTA and the SFFD have now confirmed that the victim was struck by a Muni bus. SFMTA and SFFD officials said Tuesday, that the Muni bus was stopped on Harrison Street "when the pedestrian began crossing the street midblock near the rear of the bus."
"As the Muni bus began moving, the pedestrian fell and was struck by the bus," the agencies’ said in a statement. "Neither the driver of the bus nor the passengers on board were aware of the pedestrian’s presence, his fall, or his contact with the bus."
The pedestrian sustained significant head trauma according to the paramedics, in addition to severe bleeding.
The statement goes on to say that press reports saying that the fire chief has attributed blame to the Cruise vehicles for the patient's death are "inaccurate."
"This is an all-around heart breaking and tragic incident," officials said. "Every day, Muni transit operators deal with challenges and increasingly complex situations to keep 500,000 daily customers and every person using San Francisco streets safe. Despite these unique challenges, the operators are committed to safety, and we are proud of their record."
The SFFD, and Chief Jeanine Nicholson, have been extremely critical of Cruise and its competitor Waymo and the impact that the testing of self-driving cars has had on emergency responders. Members of the police and fire departments spoke at a special hearing with the California Public Utilities Commission days before they voted to allow both companies to expand paid taxi service in the city, warning that the incident reports were growing, and that the robot cars had frequently been a dangerous nuisance impeding the movement of emergency vehicles.
Days after that PUC vote, a Cruise vehicle that had pulled into an intersection was struck by a fire engine, injuring a passenger inside. A firefighter at the scene told KPIX that the Cruise car had failed to yield properly to the fire engine, while Cruise's version of events was "One of our cars entered the intersection on a green light and was struck by an emergency vehicle that appeared to be en route to an emergency scene."
Photo: Josh Wilburne