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GM faces lawsuit after crash between motorcyclist and self-driving Chevy Bolt

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Suit claims Cruise Automation vehicle made an abrupt lane change and injured a man riding behind


A motorcyclist involved in a crash last month in San Francisco with a Cruise Automation self-driving vehicle filed suit against that company’s parent and maker of the vehicle, General Motors.

Oscar Nilsson’s suit over the Dec. 7, 2017 crash, The Mercury News reported Tuesday, claims he was injured while riding behind a Cruise Automation Chevrolet Bolt that had someone in the driver’s seat, but who did not have their hands on the steering wheel. When the car started to change into a left lane, it abruptly returned to the initial lane and collided with Nilsson, who now says the crash resulted in injuries that have forced him to take disability leave from work, according to The Mercury News.

But details of the crash in a report filed by GM to the California Department of Motor Vehicles contradicts Nilsson’s claim. The automaker reported the Bolt, operating in autonomous mode in heavy traffic, stopped a requested lane change from the center lane to the left lane because a vehicle decelerated and the gap was deemed too small than initially thought. While the Bolt was trying to center itself in the initial lane again when Nilsson, “wobbled and fell over,” while trying to lane split. The damage to the Bolt was a, “long scuff on passenger side of the vehicle,” according to the DMV report.

“At Cruise, we test our self-driving cars in challenging and unpredictable environments precisely because by doing so we will get better, safer AV technology on the roads sooner,” a spokesperson from the automaker wrote in an email to The Verge. “In this case the motorcyclist merged into our lane before it was safe to do so.”

GM reported the Bolt was traveling at 12 mph at the time of the collision, while Nilsson was going faster than the flow of traffic at approximately 17 mph. The report also states Nilsson got up and moved his Honda motorcycle to the side of the street to exchange information with the vehicle operator, complained of shoulder pain and was taken to get medical care.

News of the suit comes just days after GM said it would release a Level 5 autonomous vehicle – without a steering wheel or pedals – in 2019. In November, the automaker said it would also launch a self-driving rideshare service, also in 2019. Even before Nilsson’s crash, the Cruise vehicles had been in 13 crashes that were reported to the California DMV, Reuters reported in October.

Update 7:06 pm ET: Includes statement from GM and more details from California DMV report.