Cruise is taking significant steps to enhance the interaction between its autonomous vehicles (AVs) and emergency vehicles. The changes comes after more than a few incidents with first responders, the most of recent of which saw a Cruise AV block an ambulance where the patient inside died after arriving at the hospital.
In an update posted to the company’s website, Cruise said it is determined to ensure the presence of their AVs on the road does not hinder the work of first responders. After consultations with police, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), fire officials and other city stakeholders and regulators, Cruise’s new strategy revolves around minimizing operational disruptions, quickly moving away from emergency scenes, and enhancing predictability.
To achieve this, the company has introduced several key innovations:
- Preemptive AV Slowing: Cruise AVs are now equipped to identify and respond to emergency vehicle sirens and lights. They proactively slow down even before the emergency vehicles are visible, but heard, allowing better traffic flow around the scene.
- Enhanced Predictive Behavior: AVs now have improved predictive capabilities, such as identifying if a fire truck will proceed through an intersection against a red light, factoring in the speed at which this will occur.
- Intersection Stop Regions: The AVs can identify additional early stopping locations when approaching intersections and detecting emergency lights or sirens.
- Emergency Scene Recognition: Improved technology allows AVs to recognize emergency scenes earlier and from greater distances.
- Bypassing Parked Emergency Vehicles: The AVs have been designed to navigate double-parked emergency vehicles more effectively, reducing the risk of traffic blockages.
- Enhanced Audio Detection: The AVs’ siren detection capabilities have been upgraded to rapidly detect a wider range of siren types and variations.
- Multiple Alert Notifications: Cruise has worked closely with police and fire departments to establish effective communication channels for emergency situations. They receive email alerts directly from San Francisco Emergency Services and maintain a 24/7 dispatch line for real-time updates.
- Fire Hose and Caution Tape Detection: The AVs can now better identify fire hoses and caution tape, crucial for recognizing emergency scenes.
Furthermore, Cruise has implemented operational modifications to ensure its AVs quickly yield the right of way during unforeseen and unique situations. In emergency cases, first responders will have access to the AVs to manually move them.