Self-Driving Waymo Robotaxi in Collision with Bicyclist in San Francisco, Raising Safety Concerns

Self-Driving Waymo Robotaxi in Collision with Bicyclist in San Francisco, Raising Safety ConcernsSource: TaurusEmerald, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Eileen Vargas
Published on February 08, 2024

A self-driving Waymo robotaxi collided with a bicyclist in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood, sparking new concerns about the safety of autonomous vehicles on busy city streets. The incident took place around 3 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of 17th and Mississippi Streets, CBS News reported.

Upon arrival, cops found the self-driving car with passengers and a cyclist who had been struck by the vehicle. According to statements from police, there were no injuries to any of the passengers. The cause of the collision is still under investigation. Disturbing this otherwise tranquil tech landscape, the accident has prompted questions about the reliability of self-driving technology amidst urban challenges.

SFist detailed that, according to Waymo, the vehicle had stopped at the four-way intersection and proceeded after a large truck cleared the intersection. Unfortunately, the cyclist emerged from behind the occluding vehicle and entered the path of the Waymo car. "When they became unoccluded, our vehicle applied heavy braking but was not able to avoid the collision," a Waymo statement explained.

The bicyclist reportedly left the scene on their own volition, declining a trip to the hospital after being assessed by San Francisco Fire Department responders who were called at 2:43 p.m., SFist noted. They apparently sustained only minor scratches.

As local official commentary heats up, San Francisco's Supervisor Shamann Walton shared his skepticism about the nascent technology on Facebook, stating, "Driverless Waymo vehicle just struck a cyclist at 17th and Mississippi. So much for safety." He suggested that for autonomous technology to be a viable alternative on roadways, it must perform "100% better than human beings," which he implied is currently not the case.

This latest incident poses a possible setback for Waymo, especially as they consider expanding their services beyond their current operational zones, amid ongoing competition with rival firm Cruise. San Francisco police have urged witnesses or anyone with information pertinent to the collision to come forward, advising them to contact the SFPD Tip Line or to send a text message starting with SFPD to TIP411.