In a bizarre turn of events, a General Motors Cruise robotaxi found itself entangled in controversy when it collided with a pedestrian, dragging her 20 feet in a disconcerting incident last October. An analysis commissioned by GM sheds light on the technical glitches that compounded the situation, revealing a series of missteps that unfolded after the collision.
Technical Missteps Unveiled: A Domino Effect in Play
The analysis, conducted by engineering consultancy Exponent and featured in a report from law firm Quinn Emanuel, unveils a play-by-play account of the incident. The self-driving Cruise AV, affectionately named Panini, encountered several technical errors that amplified the consequences of the accident.
The mishap began after the pedestrian was initially struck by another vehicle in an adjacent lane, catapulting her into the path of the Cruise AV. While the car managed to detect the prior collision and marginally slowed down, it failed to accurately locate the fallen woman, setting off a chain of events.
The report cites the car’s inability to identify the woman’s position, an erroneous understanding of which part of the vehicle made contact with her, and a miscalculation of the car’s own location. Rather than executing an emergency stop, the Cruise AV, mistakenly interpreting the impact as a side collision, continued forward at a speed of 7.7 miles per hour, dragging the pedestrian for 20 feet.
Human Intuition vs. Automated Oversight: A Stark Contrast
The report emphasizes a critical point: a human driver, in such a situation, would have likely fared better. An alert and attentive human driver would have recognized the impact, prompting further investigation, unlike the autonomous vehicle that continued without intervening.
Following the incident, Cruise suspended operations and faced scrutiny from multiple investigations, including one by the Justice Department. In response, the self-driving unit has updated its software to address the underlying issues, as detailed in a blog post on Thursday.
In essence, the mishap highlights the delicate balance between cutting-edge technology and the innate instincts of a human driver, underscoring the challenges faced by the autonomous vehicle industry in ensuring safety and reliability.