An Autonomous Car Blocked a Fire Truck Responding to an Emergency

The incident in San Francisco cost first responders valuable time, and underscores the challenges Cruise and other companies face in launching driverless taxis.

ON AN EARLY April morning, around 4 am, a San Francisco Fire Department truck responding to a fire tried to pass a doubled-parked garbage truck by using the opposing lane. But a traveling autonomous vehicle, operated by the General Motors subsidiary Cruise without anyone inside, was blocking its path. While a human might have reversed to clear the lane, the Cruise car stayed put. The fire truck only passed the blockage when the garbage truck driver ran from their work to move their vehicle.

“This incident slowed SFFD response to a fire that resulted in property damage and personal injuries,” city officials wrote in a filing submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission. The city wrote that the fire department is concerned that Cruise vehicles stop too often in travel lanes, which could have a “negative impact” on fire department response times.