A self-driving car is pulled over by police, find out what happened next

A Cruise self-driving car is pulled over by the police, then attempts to drive off.
Christopher McFadden
Cruise driverless car.Cruise/Instagram

In an interesting clash of the future meeting the past, footage has been released showing police "pulling over" an autonomous vehicle for an apparent driving violation. In the video, San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers attempt to stop a Cruise autonomous car for not having its lights on. 

In the footage, the Chevy Bolt-turned-Cruise vehicle is shown to have stopped while a police officer approaches and walks up to the window. He tries to unsuccessfully open the door and is then shown returning to his police cruiser. 

In response, the autonomous vehicle then begins to drive away and start what might be the world's first autonomous vehicle police chase in history. However, the autonomous car then pulls over again and puts on its hazard lights. 

In response, the police officers follow the car and park up behind it once again. They then get out of their cruiser once again and loiter around the vehicle as they appear to attempt to get the car to turn its headlights back on. 

In an interview with the Verge, Aaron Mclear from Cruise explained that their car wasn't attempting to escape, but rather find a safer place to park up. This is something that human drivers usually can't get away with unscathed. 

He also confirmed that the SFPD pulled over the vehicle for not having its headlights on, and says Cruise has since fixed the issue.

“The vehicle yielded to the police car, then pulled over to the nearest safe location for the traffic stop,” Mclear explained. “An officer contacted Cruise personnel and no citation was issued. We work closely with the SFPD on how to interact with our vehicles and have a dedicated phone number for them to call in situations like this,” he added. 

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Cruise is a subsidiary of General Motors and their fleet of vehicles uses LIDAR to guide most of their self-driving functions. The company has been using autonomous vehicles in San Francisco to shuttle around its staff since 2017. It has recently, however, opened up its services to paying customers around the city. 

It is still not clear why the vehicle had not activated its headlights, but it could point to a minor fault with the autonomous systems or sensors. Since Cruise vehicles are only authorized to operate in the city between 10 PM and 6 AM, it is vital that something as simple as headlights is functioning properly to prevent potential accidents. 

Accidents have occurred in the past, like in 2018 when a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. A subsequent investigation found that Uber had turned off Volvo's standard emergency braking system to prevent conflicts with Uber's own software. However, it is unclear if this was the main cause of the accident. 

Whatever the cause for the apparent fault with Cruise's self-driving car, it raises some important questions about the ongoing safety of such vehicles driving around cities at night. It also raises some questions about how traffic violations should be handled by police authorities in the short- to long-term. 

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