Feds asking if robotaxis pose a risk to pedestrians after several crashes

More driverless cars are hitting the road, but there are renewed concerns about safety after several recent crashes.

Federal investigators want to know if automakers have enough safeguards for pedestrians.

News Center 7′s Xavier Hershovitz looked at the expanding market and how it could impact local roads.

“These are big vehicles that can inflict damage if there are crashes or if they hit pedestrians and bicyclists and so on,” Ram Pendyala, Arizona State University engineering professor said.

Earlier this month, a woman in San Franciso was struck by a hit-and-run driver and then hit a second time by a robotaxi operated by Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors.

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“The initial impact was severe and launched the pedestrian directly in front of the AV. The AV then braked aggressively to impact the impact,” the company said in a statement.

It’s one of the two such incidents reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which said it also identified two further incidents.

Pendyala said it makes sense federal investigators want to know if the company has enough pedestrian safeguards in place.

“This is the NHTSA just exercising due diligence, as with all vehicles and all technologies,” Pendayala said.

A Crusie spokesperson said it will cooperate with the probe.

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Alphabet’s Waymo is another leading company, which is not part of the probe.

It operates in Arizona, where Pendyala lives.

“A lot of folks who take those rides, they visit Phoenix and they take a ride. They are surprised as to how amazing the experience is.” Pendyala said. “I think we’ll just have to see you know how the data really demonstrates the potential benefits from a safety standpoint.”

Right now, robotaxis are operating in Phoenix, San Francisco and Austin.

GM hopes to expand testing to more than a dozen cities next year.

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