Motorcyclist Sues GM for Self-Driving Car Collision

Print Email

San Francisco motorcyclist Oscar Nilsson has filed a personal injury suit in federal court against General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) alleging that one of the company’s Chevy Bolt autonomous vehicles veered into his lane and knocked Nilsson to the ground. The self-driving car is owned and was being operated by GM’s Cruise subsidiary.

According to the filing, the self-driving car was “engaged in a self-driving mode” and the person in the car’s driver’s seat had his hands off the steering wheel when the car, traveling in the same lane in front of Nilsson changed lanes to the left.

Nilsson remained in his lane when the car “suddenly veered” back, “striking Nilsson and knocking him to the ground,” resulting in injuries to Nilsson’s neck and shoulder that “will require lengthy treatment.” Nilsson has also been “forced” to take disability leave from his job as a result of the crash.

According to a report filed by GM Cruise with the California Division of Motor Vehicles, the details of the collision were significantly different:

A Cruise autonomous vehicle (“Cruise AV”), operating in autonomous mode in heavy traffic, was involved in a collision while traveling east on Oak Street just past the intersection with Fillmore Street. The Cruise AV was traveling in the center of three one-way lanes. Identifying a space between two vehicles (a minivan in front and a sedan behind) in the left lane, the Cruise AV began to merge into that lane. At the same time, the minivan decelerated. Sensing that its gap was closing, the Cruise AV stopped making its lane change and returned fully to the center lane. As the Cruise AV was re-centering itself in the lane, a motorcycle that that had just lane-split between two vehicles in the center and right lanes moved into the center lane, glanced the side of the Cruise AV, wobbled, and fell over. At the time of the collision, the Cruise AV was traveling with the flow of traffic at 12 mph, while the motorcycle was traveling at approximately 17 mph. The motorcyclist got up and walked his vehicle to the side of the road, where the parties exchanged information. 911 was called pursuant to Cruise policy. The motorcyclist reported shoulder pain and was taken to receive medical care, and a police report was taken. As reported in Traffic Collision Report#l70989746, the motorcyclist was determined to be at fault for attempting to overtake and pass another vehicle on the right under conditions that did not pennit that movement in safety in violation of CVC 21755(a).

For those who don’t live in California, lane-splitting — that is, driving a motorcycle between cars that are stopped or moving slowly in adjacent lanes — is legal in the state.

Nilsson is seeking an unspecified amount of actual damages, attorney costs, punitive damages and other relief deemed proper by the court.

Through October of last year, GM Cruise had been involved in 13 crashes, six in the month of September alone. Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) had been involved in three. A GM Cruise spokeswoman told Reuters that all the company’s incidents for the year through October had been caused by the other vehicle.