Skip to main content

San Francisco Cruise crash leads to software recall in 80 self-driving vehicles

A Cruise vehicle near the Castro district in San Francisco in April 2021. Courtesy Cruise | Source: Cruise

Software in eighty Cruise autonomous vehicles was recalled and updated in an effort to avoid an issue that led to a crash in San Francisco, according to a regulatory filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The June 3 accident involved a Toyota Prius hitting a self-driving Cruise autonomous vehicle while making an unprotected left turn in Laurel Heights. 

After the collision, Cruise investigated the accident and opted to recall and update software in 80 of its vehicles. The company has gradually started to reintroduce unprotected left turns since then.

“We submitted this voluntary filing in the interest of transparency to the public; it pertains to a prior version of software and does not impact or change our current on-road operations,” a Cruise spokesperson said.

Cruise’s software update is meant to improve the autonomous vehicles’ “predictive performance” to avoid an accident when faced with a similar situation to the June 3 crash. The company said the self-driving software would now choose a different path under those circumstances. 

The crash took place the day after the General Motors-owned company became the first company to win approval from regulators to ferry passengers in the state for a fee, and was one of 111 collisions involving an autonomous vehicle in California thus far in 2022, according to a review of DMV’s collision reports. Ninety-four have taken place in San Francisco, owing to the city’s role as a proving ground for self-driving cars. 

According to a DMV collision report filed by Cruise about the June 3 accident, the Chevy Cruise was operating in autonomous mode without a driver and traveling eastbound on Geary Boulevard at around 11 p.m. toward the intersection with Spruce Street. It entered the left turn lane to turn left on Spruce at the same time a Toyota Prius was traveling westbound at around 40 miles per hour in a 25 MPH zone in the right turn lane.

Police and emergency responders arrived at the scene and occupants of both vehicles received medical treatment for “allegedly minor injuries.” A fire department spokesman said one person was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. 

Cruise’s regulatory filing said that its self-driving software determined a hard brake was necessary to avoid a front collision with the oncoming vehicle; however, the Prius moved out of the right turn lane and continued through the intersection, hitting the right rear portion of the Cruise. 

Cruise said the June 3 accident was the only one it has had in more than 123,000 unprotected left turns prior to its software update. 

Self-driving vehicles have run into other hiccups on city streets, however. Last October, a Waymo car got stuck in a San Francisco cul-de-sac. In April, a Cruise vehicle appeared to briefly speed away from Richmond District police officers before being pulled over.