Patient Dies After Robotaxis Block Ambulance In San Francisco

On August 14 in San Francisco, two driverless taxis that stopped unexpectedly caused an ambulance carrying a very sick person to be delayed. Sadly, the person passed away about 20 to 30 minutes after reaching the hospital. Firefighters in San Francisco wrote a report about this, but the taxi company disagreed with it.

Forbes, a news company, got a hold of this report. They also talked to firefighters who say that driverless taxis have caused problems for them before during emergencies.

But Forbes also said that the taxi company, Cruise, showed them a video that tells a different story about what happened on August 14. According to the video, one taxi left quickly, and the other one was stuck at an intersection but didn’t block the road completely. It’s not clear from the video if the ambulance could have passed the taxi.

A spokesperson from Cruise, Hannah Lindow, said that the taxi that stopped did so because it wanted to let the ambulance and other first responders direct traffic. They said that during the whole time the taxi was stopped, traffic could still move around it. The ambulance could have gone past it as well, they said.

“Throughout the entire duration the (autonomous vehicle) 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,” Lindow said in an email. “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.”

The firefighters’ report from August 14 said that they arrived at Seventh and Harrison Streets at 10:50 p.m. to help a person who got hit by a car. This person was badly hurt and in the middle of the road. The report said that the ambulance couldn’t leave because two Cruise driverless taxis were in the way, and the police couldn’t move them. They even had to ask a police officer to move his car, which was also blocking the road. All of this caused a delay in helping the injured person, and sadly, they passed away.

“These delays caused by (2) autonomous vehicles blocking a normal egress route from the scene, contributed to a poor patient outcome, delaying the definitive care required in severe trauma cases,” the report said. “The patient was pronounced deceased at SFGH (San Francisco General Hospital) approximately 20-30 minutes after arrival due to severe blunt force trauma.”

Cruise pointed out that the problem started because of a human-driven car, not their taxi.

According to Forbes, the San Francisco Fire Department has had 74 problems with driverless taxis, and 52 of them involved Cruise taxis.

Emergency responders are now trying to figure out how long the cars were stuck and how much the ambulance was delayed.

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