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

Cruise

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.

Comments

When the car started to change into a left lane, it abruptly returned to the initial lane and collided with Nilsson

Sounds like Nilsson was being reckless and stupid trying to move up before the car had completed it’s lane-change.

I can already picture it. Probably came out out of nowhere hot on the throttle split between two cars as the Bolt attempted to switch lanes it probably cancelled out as he approached and Nillson seeing a turn signal panic braked and lost his shit.

You would be incorrect with the, "hot on throttle split between two cars" part. As per here:

Fortunately, the Bolt was traveling at just 12 mph at the time of the collision while the 1996 Honda S90 was overtaking at 17 mph. The biker suffered a minor shoulder injury while the passenger side of the Bolt was left badly scratched.

Not a truly "high-speed" encounter.

- Sofa

That’s about 40% faster than the rest of the traffic at the time… in comparison to the slow traffic, it is "high speed".

Sounds like Nilsson wanted to play and lost…twice (split lane and failing lawsuit). Hopefully he’ll learn a lesson or two.

That 40 % faster is 30% under the lane splitting limit. (10mph over speed of traffic.) not only that, but a reasonable amount of speed is needed to keep balance on a Motorcycle.

Though I imagine passing a vehicle that is moving at .5mph while doing 5mph would be 1000% faster and INSANE by that logic.
The rider was acting completely within the proven and defended rule of the law by all accounts. GM is defending this so aggressively to save face on fears of self driving cars.

As someone who has been riding for nearly 35 years I have to say there is a lot of fud being thrown around by both parties and commenters. As far as I can tell the car partially left it’s lane while trying to change lanes. The rider as motorcyclists will do moved forward (not lane splitting) since we’re so much smaller we can occupy a portion of the lane. However doing so before the car had fully left the lane even at that speed is asking for trouble. He was probably trying to defend his position in traffic so another car didn’t stuff right in front of him. It’s a dangerous gamble on a bike. So now he’s committed and the car cancels it’s lane change and starts coming back over. This forced the rider into a lane splitting position and the abrupt change in direction combined with likely braking hard to avoid the car caused him to crash. Whether it’s because the car bumped him or if he locked up his front tire or something else is up to the courts to decide.

Defending his position? Don’t bikers know they will always lose compared to a car?

It’s not about being a biker it’s just stupid humans. A lot of drivers tail gate trying to defend their position in traffic. It’s stupid and most of us do it at one point or another especially when we’re tired and frustrated.

I really wish GM would release the camera footage in theses cases, so we could see and judge for ourselves who was at fault.

California looks to be a pure comparative negligence state. The judge will look at the fault of each party and likely will find fault on both parties. Because the rider got hurt and if lane splitting is legal in California, I’m sure he will get something.

But this is a really interesting case though because of the other issue that had the car committed to the lane change to avoid hitting the rider, it would have rear ended a car in the left lane. This would be a perfect Intro to Law class test question, to argue the fault. It has so many scenarios to argue that it would make the student talk about a few major legal topics.

Also, what is the responsibility of the vehicle to take the action that results in least bodily harm. Had the car committed to the lane change and ultimately ran into the vehicle ahead likely would have resulted in no bodily injury. This would have saved the motorcycle rider from harm. I’m not arguing for or against the rider, just things to think about and how will the AI be programmed to take that into consideration, especially with higher speeds involved, even if someone did something illegal that has put your vehicle in a lose lose take the least damage and injury probability route.

Lane splitting isn’t explicitly legal but nobody can point to a law making it illegal so it’s tolerated. Legislators have looked into enacting a law in recent years but it’s a moot point. The vehicle in front has the right of way. The Chevy was the vehicle in front. It hadn’t left the lane yet, so there was a vehicle in the same lane in front of the motorcycle.

I’ve ridden in CA for about as long as you have and yes… we’ve seen this move, if not performed it, a thousand times. I believe the rider was legally in the wrong here. He’s perfectly legit to split between the lanes as stated, but the lane itself belongs to the Bolt until he leaves it, whether he signaled intent or not. The moment the bike moves away from the line and "takes the lane" while the car is still in it, he’s breaking the law – two vehicles in the lane, not even legal for two bicycles. I’m not sure if this guy has figured it out, but GM is going to have footage of this incident from 10 angles and telemetry (including speed and position of the bike) to go with it and I’m guessing they’re pretty confident what it will show – that the Bolt never left the lane and the bike moved too aggressively to fill a lane that wasn’t available yet.

This is why lane splitting should be illegal, and is in most places. The fault would be clear if this happened in NYC. It would lie with the motorcyclist. And that would be true regardless of whether the car was autonomous or not.

Lane splitting is illegal in most places in the Unites States but is allowed in most of the world. The United States is not the world.

It should be illegal in all of the United States. Add this to the list of reasons the rest of the US hates California and thinks it’s bass ackwards. Sigh.

What?! But it’s the center of the world, right?

According to a CA traffic school I attended, the maximum allowed speed difference for lans splitting is 5 mph.

Anytime you change your mind when changing lanes you’re creating a dangerous situation, regardless of what type of vehicles are around you. You must check before moving back into your lane. The whole point of using turn signals is so others can anticipate what you’re going to do and act accordingly. Nilsson was not being "reckless and stupid", although if he had been more experienced he would have been ready for cars to change lanes into him; it happens to me all the time. Whenever I see a space opening up, it’s only smart to move into it before some lumbering car can side-swipe me.

You’re playing to the prejudice against motorcycles. (How often have you seen a sympathetic portrayal of motorcyclists? They’re always the bad guys who end up biting the dust big-time.) When you ride one you’re like a rabbit caught in a stampede of cattle. All that you have going for you is quickness and the fact that all your attention is on the road (unlike most car drivers). It’s a well known phenomenon that drivers of bigger vehicles will not "see" motorcycles. People will look right at you and then pull out right in front of you. This Cruise AV is apparently just as stupid, which is why its been in 13 crashes already.

Motorcycles should be encouraged. They burn much less fuel, take up less space and put less wear and tear on roads, etc. If Nilsson was lane-splitting (the article is contradictory) that’s cool too, because it reduces congestion and is safe when there’s no room for cars to change lanes or when traffic is stopped. Of course, there are always people who will open their doors just out of spite.

From what we have heard, the car hadn’t actually finished leaving it’s lane when it aborted the maneuver. This situation happens all the time on freeways, and moving into a space a car hasn’t actually left yet is stupid. Doesn’t matter if your driving a car, motorcycle, or semi-truck.

As someone else pointed out, we as humans do this all the time. Start changing lanes, spot another car trying to enter from the other side, and abort the merge before you’ve left your original lane.

You’re playing to the prejudice against motorcycles. (How often have you seen a sympathetic portrayal of motorcyclists?

My opinion of this event doesn’t represent some prejudice against bikes. I’ve come quite close to buying one myself.

How often have you seen a sympathetic portrayal of motorcyclists? They’re always the bad guys who end up biting the dust big-time.
Motorcycles should be encouraged. They burn much less fuel, take up less space and put less wear and tear on roads, etc.

Sure, but they also shouldn’t be encouraged to blame others when they choose to undertake a dangerous act. While their MPG is decent, most motorcycles have shitty emissions. A small Japanese car can beat a Harley’s average MPG (34-50 depending on model/year), while putting a lot less crap into the atmosphere. Some BMW’s are even worse than that. A Prius beats out most of them.

If Nilsson was lane-splitting (the article is contradictory) that’s cool too, because it reduces congestion and is safe when there’s no room for cars to change lanes or when traffic is stopped.

Sure, but traffic wasn’t stopped in this case, and there was room for cars to change lanes, except that someone further ahead in the other lane slowed down.

Of course, there are always people who will open their doors just out of spite.

I highly doubt that. If you’re splitting lanes, it’s on you to keep an eye out, you are specifically driving outside the lane of traffic, and people at the side of the road aren’t going to be able to notice you driving up behind them. Well, maybe if you’re riding an obnoxious Harley, but you should just stop that anyways.

I knew you would go all the way back to Easy Rider – that was the 60’s! Don’t make me list all the hundreds of shows where motorcyclists were the evil ones.

we as humans do this all the time. Start changing lanes, spot another car trying to enter from the other side, and abort the merge before you’ve left your original lane

True, but we as humans also tend to be fooled into reacting to turn signals and reinforcing movements so, after indicating that you’re going to do one thing, you should always check to see who might have believed you before you do the opposite.

I would argue about the emissions but I just hours ago ran a motorcycle inside my garage and set off the carbon monoxide detectors inside my house.

Drivers should always check before changing lanes whether there’s lane-splitting going on or not. And people do open their doors to block you, but not nearly as often as they honk their horns at you, even when lane-splitting is legal. It’s jealousy and misery wants company.

And the reason some bikes are so loud is so that all the blind drivers and AV’s out there can at least hear us.

I’m a rider too, but your us-vs-them, loud-pipes-save-lives attitude do nothing to serve our cause. In 30 years I’ve never had anyone open a door to block me when lane-splitting, so you must be doing something to piss people off.

I can’t say that anyone knew I was coming when they opened their door, so you might be right about my attitude. When they’ve squeezed over and made it too narrow for me to get by, that might just be a coincidence too. But I’m surprised it’s never happened to you. Then again, you are an extremely small sample size. I’ll bet you’ve never had a biker blow past you in the same lane either, but SquareMelon (below) said it happens to him.

I knew you would go all the way back to Easy Rider – that was the 60’s! Don’t make me list all the hundreds of shows where motorcyclists were the evil ones.

Because Easy Rider is iconic as hell. I also included MI. Remember the heroic motorcycle chase in Rogue Nation (and in the earlier films, once overlapping with the John Woo comment)? Actually Tom Cruise seems to ride a motorcycle in a lot of movies, and usually as the good guy.

If you haven’t left a lane during an aborted merge, checking back in isn’t going to do anybody any good. If someone is there, they’ve left you no option. There’s no way out. Either you impact on the lane change. Or you impact with the fool who moved up without clearance or right of way.

It’s jealousy and misery wants company.

Or its because you just raced past inches from their mirrors. I’ve honked at one or two bikers, but only when they cut around me on the freeway, forcing me to panic break because they couldn’t wait ten seconds in their own labe. Don’t worry, I honk at the assholes in their cars too, and there’s more of them in sheer numbers than obnoxious bikers..

And the reason some bikes are so loud is so that all the blind drivers and AV’s out there can at least hear us.

That is absolutely not the reason for Harleys or their ilk’s noise. It’s to be noticed, just like the fools in their muscle cars or big spotless trucks that have never been off road in their life.

They like being noticed, so I oblige by judging them.

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