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GM sued by motorcyclist injured in crash involving self-driving car

Two recent crashes raise questions over the readiness of self-driving technology

ByABC News
January 27, 2018, 11:46 AM

— -- A San Francisco man is suing General Motors after a collision between his motorcycle and a self-driving Chevrolet Bolt.

Oscar Nilsson claims in his lawsuit that he was driving behind a Bolt in San Francisco in December when the car began to change lanes. As Nilsson attempted to pass the Bolt, the self-driving vehicle "suddenly veered back into Mr. Nilsson's lane," knocking him to the ground, the lawsuit alleges.

Nilsson claims in his suit that he suffered injuries to his neck and shoulder, forcing him to take time off work.

General Motors has a different version of events leading up to the crash.

The company says in a statement to ABC News that the motorcyclist merged prematurely into the Bolt's lane.

"Safety is our primary focus when it comes to developing and testing our self-driving technology. In this matter, the SFPD collision report stated that the motorcyclist merged into our lane before it was safe to do so,” GM said in its statement.

The San Francisco Police Department crash report did not assign blame for the collision, and no citations were issued at the crash scene.

The news of the lawsuit comes as a federal investigation has been launched into more recent crash, on Jan. 22, involving a Tesla and a fire truck in Southern California.

In that incident, a Tesla Model S struck the rear of a Culver City fire truck that was parked on the side of a freeway in West Los Angeles while first responders tended to a victim of an unrelated traffic collision, according to a collision report from the California Highway Patrol.

The driver of the Tesla Model S said the "autopilot" feature of his car was engaged prior to the collision, according to the highway patrol report. No one was injured in the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

ABC News reached out to Tesla for comment but has not heard back.

But speaking in general and not in regard to this particular crash, Tesla and independent experts both say that a driver using the current autonomous technology needs to remain ready to take over control of the vehicle at any time.

"Some of the cars say they have autopilot; that does not mean that the driver can check out," National Safety Council President and CEO Debbie Hersman told ABC News.

Hersman is also a former board member of the NTSB.

Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla, has echoed that statement, previously telling ABC News, "The responsibility remains with the driver."