Most drivers know what happens when stopped by the police. However, what does the interaction look like when the police try to stop a driverless car? The scene played out in San Francisco when a self-driving car-self operated by GM’s Cruise had to be pulled over.
Since February, Cruise has been offering public taxi rides to the public in San Francisco after months of ferrying around the company’s staff. Most of the public rides have been uneventful until the recent run-in with the police.
The robotaxis doesn’t have a human driver but was flagged down by a San Francisco Police Department officer. The car was a Chevy Bolt. The policeman went to the windows and tried to open the door, unsuccessfully. As the officer started to move back to his cruiser, the self-driving Bolt began to move away on its own.
At this point, a human driver might have triggered a police chase. However, the car pulled over down the road and put on its hazards. The police officer pulled up behind the car again, got out of his cruiser, and walked around the Bolt as he obviously tried to figure out how to turn the headlights back on.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Cruise has explained the Bolt wasn’t trying to escape from the police. It was actually parking safely, although the move would have been misinterpreted if it had been a human driver. The spokesperson also confirmed the car was stopped for not having its headlights on. Cruise has fixed the problem.
However, Cruise has not explained why the car did not have its headlights on. Since the vehicles are only allowed to operate from 10 PM to 6 AM, headlights are a big issue. The automatic headlights were probably disabled, or the car did not detect the darkness.
The spokesperson said, “The vehicle yielded to the police car, then pulled over to the nearest safe location for the traffic stop. An officer contacted Cruise personnel, and no citation was issued. We work closely with the SFPD on how to interact with our vehicles and have a dedicated phone number for them to call in situations like this.”
Cruise’s self-driving cars use LIDAR technology to monitor the environment. They had been transporting Cruise’s employees in the city since 2017, but a waiting list is now available for members of the public that wants to join the trial.
Self-driving cars have sometimes made the news for the wrong reasons. In 2018, an autonomous Uber car killed a pedestrian pushing her bike across the road in Arizona. Tesla cars have also been involved in crashes, sometimes fatally, although oftentimes it was due to driver’s negligence.
As autonomous driving gets more traction, it is unavoidable that there will be increasing interaction with the police. Cruise has already made a video that teaches how first responders should handle situations involving its cars.