The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has launched an investigation into allegations that a driverless Cruise vehicle almost hit a 7-year-old boy and his family while they were crossing the street in San Francisco last year. According to DMV records obtained by the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit, the incident occurred on the evening of August 14 in the Mission District neighborhood. The driverless car, which had initially come to a stop, started accelerating towards the family as they were crossing the intersection of 20th Street and York Street.
Sascha Retailleau, who was walking with his wife and son at the time, said that the car swerved towards his young son, Luke, who had to rush ahead to avoid being hit. Retailleau reported the incident to the DMV, which is currently conducting an ongoing investigation and is unable to provide any further details. Luke described feeling scared and stated that if he hadn’t run, the car would have hit him.
This incident occurred just one day after a similar near-miss was captured on camera in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. The video, which was posted on Reddit, shows a Cruise car accelerating towards two women and two children in a crosswalk. The vehicle then brakes and swerves around them at the last moment. Cruise has acknowledged its involvement in this incident but declined to comment further due to an ongoing federal investigation.
Cruise spokesperson Erik Moser stated that their records show none of their driverless cars were present at the specific intersection when Retailleau and his family were crossing the street. However, Retailleau, a mechanical engineer who has experience building robots, was adamant that he saw a driverless Cruise car with the company’s signature orange stripe that day.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently investigating at least four incidents involving Cruise vehicles and pedestrians, including the incident posted on Reddit. In a summary of its investigation, the NHTSA stated that it has received reports of Cruise vehicles not exercising appropriate caution around pedestrians in the roadway.
Cruise is now facing five separate state and federal investigations into its safety record and whether it misled regulators and the public. The company’s fleet of 400 driverless cars has been grounded since October last year after California regulators determined that Cruise posed an unreasonable risk to public safety. The company has not announced when or where it expects to resume operations.
Representatives from Cruise are scheduled to appear before regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday in connection with an incident on October 2, where a woman was struck by a hit-and-run driver and then hit by a Cruise driverless car. Cruise has admitted that its actions raised concerns and has offered to pay $75,000 in fines as part of a proposed settlement agreement. The company also plans to increase the amount of information it publicly discloses regarding future collisions.
Retailleau, who filed a complaint with Cruise after the incident involving his son, has yet to receive a response from the company more than five months later. He expressed his frustration, stating that there was no apology or indication that Cruise would try to make things right. Cruise admitted to the lack of communication and apologized for it. Retailleau believes that a company beta testing on the public should not be allowed to have potentially dangerous vehicles on the streets of San Francisco.
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has released an entire investigative series on Cruise, and individuals can contact the unit to submit tips or for further information.