SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As the autonomous driving technology expands, we are also seeing reports of incidents in San Francisco involving passengers and a cyclist.
A couple of minutes into his Waymo ride, Robert Moreno said the cool feeling of getting an invitation to ride on a driverless vehicle quickly shifted.
"Some panic set in - just all in the situation," said Moreno.
On Saturday, Robert and his husband said a person who looked homeless was trying to cover the sensors of the vehicle as the light turned green.
"We felt trapped in the sense that we didn't know what to do in that instance. We didn't really have understanding. Do we get out? Was it safe to get out of the car? It was nighttime, pouring rain," said Moreno.
Luz Pena: "Were you concerned for your safety?"
Robert Moreno: "We were because of the situation. If we were outside walking we could've walked away, run away. If we were driving, we could make sure we locked the door. In this instance, we literally had no control."
Robert tapped "Support" and Waymo's staff spoke to the couple in the vehicle.
Minutes later, the person who tried to cover the sensors walked away.
Waymo emailed them citing in part: "when a pedestrian attacks the vehicle, we advise riders to remain inside the vehicle."
Scott Moura, UC Berkeley's faculty director for the Program for Advanced Transportation Technology or PATH, explained why the Waymo vehicle responded the way it did.
"When those sensors are blocked, it's equivalent to basically someone putting a blindfold over the eyes of a driver and they are unable to move," said Moura.
Sensors and visibility are key. On Tuesday, a cyclist was hit by a Waymo vehicle in the Potrero Hill neighborhood.
In a statement, Waymo said in part:
"The cyclist was occluded by the truck and quickly followed behind it, crossing into the Waymo vehicle's path. When they became fully visible, our vehicle applied heavy braking but was not able to avoid the collision."
Last summer, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition took a stance against AV expansion.
This week, Christopher White, interim executive director of the coalition said, "We are really relieved that seems like the person's injuries were minor but they could have been much worse. It's also concerning that the response we saw from Waymo seeks to put the cause of the crash on to the person who was biking being hidden behind a truck. We all know that when we are driving and we see a large motor vehicle movement, that we should assume there's something behind it that we can't see."
Professor Moura and his team are working with all the stakeholders to improve the technology through their research.
"There needs to be more work. Within our research center, we have studied the safety of AVs and it's not there yet it's not human level safe," said Moura.
As for Robert, he blames the challenges of the city - not Waymo.
"I think the challenges of the city make some of the progress through technology, through these innovation challenging because it's a limitation it makes an experience like this is a teaching moment," said Moreno.
Full e-mail Moreno received from Waymo:
"We appreciate your eagerness to know more about our process when a pedestrian attacks the vehicle, so here's more information.
When a pedestrian attacks the vehicle, we advise riders to remain inside the vehicle until one of our team members arrives or there's an urgent need to exit. Be assured that our team works closely with local law enforcement and government and have a team nearby to assist if need be.
We hope this helps! Thanks for your understanding."
Full statement Waymo sent regarding Moreno's incident:
"We advise riders to remain inside their vehicle when someone comes up to it, unless there's an urgent need to exit, because it's often the safest thing to do. Our customers and their safety are the heart of everything we do. We have the system and processes in place to support riders through events like these, and always welcome feedback on how we can do even better in the future."
Full Waymo statement on their collision with a cyclist:
"On February 6th at 17th Street and Mississippi Street in San Francisco, one of our vehicles was involved in a collision with a bicyclist. The Waymo vehicle was at a complete stop at a four-way intersection. An oncoming large truck progressed through the intersection in our direction and then at our turn to proceed, we moved into the intersection. The cyclist was occluded by the truck and quickly followed behind it, crossing into the Waymo vehicle's path. When they became fully visible, our vehicle applied heavy braking but was not able to avoid the collision. Waymo called police to the scene and the cyclist left on their own, to our knowledge reporting only minor scratches. We are making contact with relevant authorities surrounding this event."
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