A motorcyclist who walked away from a collision with a General Motors self-driving car in San Francisco has settled his lawsuit with the automaker, court records show. The settlement was announced in a court filing last week and was reported by Jalopnik on Friday.
The crash occurred last December. Oscar Nilsson was riding his motorcycle along a three-lane, one-way road in San Francisco’s Lower Haight neighborhood.
The Cruise car was in the middle lane and saw an opening between two cars in the left lane. The Cruise car began shifting to the left, but as it did so the gap in the left lane started to close. The Cruise car aborted the lane change and returned to the middle lane.
Unfortunately, Nilsson had already steered his motorcycle into a space adjacent to the Cruise vehicle. So when the Cruise car aborted its lane change and returned to the center lane, it bumped Nilsson and knocked his motorcycle over.
GM said the Cruise vehicle was traveling at 12 miles per hour, while Nilsson was going 17 miles per hour.
Nilsson was able to walk away from the crash, but in a January lawsuit he said he suffered “injuries to his neck and shoulder that will require lengthy treatment” and was forced to take disability leave from his job.
GM and Nilsson naturally disagreed about who was at fault for the crash. Nilsson claimed he waited for the Cruise car to clear the lane before pulling up beside it. Then, Nilsson said, the Cruise car “suddenly veered back” into Nilsson’s lane. GM, by contrast, said that Nilsson had “lane-split between two vehicles in the center and right lanes” and merged into the car’s lane “before it was safe to do so.”
But rather than let the courts sort this out, the parties have reached a settlement. The court filing announcing the settlement did not detail its terms.
Cruise has made a deliberate decision to test its vehicles in San Francisco, one of the country’s most challenging driving environments. In an October post, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt described this as “challenging but necessary.” He argued that driving in San Francisco allows its cars to experience unusual and challenging events far more often than in more sedate and suburban areas like Silicon Valley and Southeastern Phoenix—the main areas where Waymo tests its vehicles.
This approach helps the Cruise team identify flaws in its technology more quickly and ultimately get it to market sooner. And given how many people die in human-driven cars every year, that could save lives in the long run.