GM Cruise Autonomous Car and Motorcycle Collide in San Francisco

John Burns
by John Burns

General Motors acquired Cruise, an autonomous car start-up, last year, and has been testing its cars ever since in San Francisco and other places. Why not? “Our vehicles encounter challenging (and often absurd) situations up to 46 times more often than other places self-driving cars are tested,” according to Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt in this article at

In this “test” involving a little inner-city lane sharing on a three-lane one-way street, the car glanced off the side of the bike (or did the motorcycle graze the car?), causing the bike to wobble and fall over from a speed of 17 mph; the car reportedly was travelling 12 mph. The rider walked away with a sore shoulder and the blame for the accident, according to the SFPD.

Here’s the accident report:

That’s not even close to being the first autonomous collision in SF, but it might be the first involving a motorcycle. The arstechnica reporter included this handy link to the Department of Motor Vehicles list of accidents involving autonomous vehicles. I read all 27 of the 2017 entries, and in none of them was the autonomous vehicle at fault. Every one I read involves the autonomous vehicle getting rear-ended, sideswiped or clipped by a non-autonomous vehicle, often driven by a person described as “distracted.” In two reports, the driverless car was hit after it slowed or stopped for a scooter in one case, and a pedestrian in the other. In none of the reports did the autonomous vehicle turn left in front of, or pull out in front of an oncoming vehicle – our main cause of concern as motorcyclists.

Meanwhile in my neck of SoCal, the Orange County Register reports on yet another fatal motorcycle collision yesterday morning, which judging from this photo, looks like a clear example of a car turning left in front of an oncoming motorcycle.

Costa Mesa Police Department investigates a fatal vehicle vs motorcycle accident Wednesday morning, December 20, 2017, on Airway Avenue south of Lear Avenue in Costa Mesa. (Photo by RICHARD KOEHLER, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER)

MO’s deepest and sincere condolences to the family of the unnamed 68-year old Harley rider the 24-year-old driver of this car killed. Maybe autonomous vehicles will be better for us than we realize, and the sooner the better?

John Burns
John Burns

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  • Mister X Mister X on Dec 22, 2017

    Basically, the Cruise AV was proceeding too fast for conditions when it initiated it's lane change, and instead of braking to adjust it's speed in order to merge, it darted back into the lane it was exiting.
    That algorithm alone makes it not ready for public use.

    • Robert C. Barth Robert C. Barth on Dec 23, 2017

      Until the vehicle fully leaves the lane they are merging from, they have right-of-way in that lane and can return to it at their discretion. I overtook a minivan merging into the next lane when suddenly the driver came back and clipped me. Guess who got cited? Also, passing on the right is generally against the law in most jurisdictions, lane- splitting notwithstanding.

  • QuestionMark666 QuestionMark666 on Dec 27, 2017

    The motorcycle and our human operated cars will be banned in 20 years according to Bob Lutz, former GM exec in an article last month in Automotive News. The reason will be that governments determine the human is too unsafe to be on the roads.

    I think the MOST important issue facing auto and motorcycle enthusiasts is retaining the RIGHT to drive your own vehicle on ALL public roads. The first step will be to allow autonomous only on certain roads or in cities. I see it coming!!

    I am 65 and about to buy my 'retirement car', this is a car I plan to drive for the rest of my life and it is a 2013 Corvette 427 Convertible. I want to be able to cruise with the top down when I'm 80, I don't want a autonomous electric cubicle on wheels, NO WAY!