SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — More details about a controversial incident involving a San Francisco pedestrian, a Muni bus, an ambulance, and driverless Cruise cars were released this week.
The fatal accident happened at the intersection of Harrison Street and 7th Street on August 14. One of the San Francisco Fire Department members who responded to the scene later wrote an internal report about what happened. The report accused two driverless Cruise cars of blocking and delaying an ambulance that urgently needed to rush the pedestrian to a hospital.
The pedestrian died between 20-30 minutes after arriving at the hospital from injuries including blunt force trauma.
On Tuesday, SFFD and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials confirmed that the pedestrian was initially struck by a Muni bus driven by a human.
The Muni bus was stopped on Harrison Street when the pedestrian began crossing the street midblock near the rear of the bus. At some point, the pedestrian fell, and the bus struck the pedestrian without anyone on the bus realizing it, officials said.
The bus driver and passengers never saw the pedestrian before, during, or after the fatal accident, officials said. City officials did not release the victim’s name.
The SFMTA and SFFD released a joint statement, writing, “This is an all-around heart breaking and tragic incident. 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 statement continued, “Emergency responders interacted with traffic, including human drivers and AVs, upon arrival to secure the scene and provide emergency medical care. Press reports, relying on an internal report from an SFFD staff member on the scene, have suggested that the San Francisco Fire Chief attributed the death of this pedestrian to Cruise AV interference with first responder operations. This is inaccurate: The San Francisco Fire Chief has not attributed this pedestrian death to Cruise AVs. The city sends our deepest condolences to family and friends of the victim.”
The SFFD staff member’s internal report, first obtained and reported by Forbes, contained a scathing critic of Cruise. The firefighter’s name was blacked out, so it remains unclear who within the fire department wrote it.
According to the report, two stalled Cruise cars caused the ambulance to be delayed while the pedestrian was bleeding heavily from lower extremity injuries. The report states, “We were unable to leave the scene initially due to the Cruise vehicles not moving. This delay, no matter how minimal, contributed to a poor patient outcome. In any significant traumatic event, time is of the essence … to give them the best possible chance at survival.”
Cruise vehemently denied the SFFD staff member’s characterization of its AV vehicles.
A Cruise spokesperson previously told KRON4, “Two Cruise AVs encountered an active emergency scene at an intersection in which a pedestrian had been hit. The first vehicle promptly clears the area once the light turns green and the other stops in the lane to yield to first responders who are directing traffic. Throughout the entire duration the AV is stopped, traffic remains unblocked and flowing to the right of the AV. The ambulance behind the AV had a clear path to pass the AV as other vehicles, including another ambulance, proceeded to do. As soon as the victim was loaded into the ambulance, the ambulance left the scene immediately and was never impeded from doing so by the AV.”
Cruise operates hundreds of driverless vehicles in the tech-centric city. According to the company, its fully autonomous cars have navigated 3 million miles in San Francisco and interacted with emergency vehicles more than 168,000 times in 2023.