Driverless taxis blocked ambulance transporting patient

Two driverless taxis in San Francisco blocked an ambulance with a critically injured patient, possibly contributing to the patient's death, the New York Times reported Sep. 2.

On Aug. 14, an ambulance responded to a person who was struck by a car. When trying to leave, the ambulance was blocked by two Cruise autonomous vehicles that had stopped in two of the four lanes on the one-way street. A police vehicle in another lane had to be moved in order for the ambulance to leave, according to a report from the San Francisco Fire Department.

The driverless vehicles delayed transport and medical care, the fire department report said. The patient was transported to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, about 2.4 miles from the accident, but was pronounced dead about 20 to 30 minutes after arriving.

Cruise, an autonomous vehicle subsidiary of General Motors, said they were not at fault. "As soon as the victim was loaded into the ambulance, the ambulance left the scene immediately and was never impeded" by the Cruise vehicles, the company said in a statement to the Times.

According to footage, one Cruise vehicle left the scene before the patient was loaded onto the ambulance, and the ambulance passed the other Cruise vehicle approximately 90 seconds after the patient was on board.

The fire department report said that "seconds matter" in these incidents and, "The delay, no matter how minimal, contributed to a poor patient outcome." It said this is one of more than 70 cases of autonomous vehicles interfering with emergency responders.

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