GM Settles Lawsuit With Motorcyclist Over Crash With Self-Driving Chevy Bolt

One of GM’s self-driving cars.
One of GM’s self-driving cars.
Photo: GM Cruise

General Motors has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a motorcyclist who alleged in January that one of the automaker’s self-driving Chevy Bolts knocked him off his bike in a California crash. The settlement for the case, the first known to involve an autonomous car crash, comes as GM moves to quickly accelerate the development of its self-driving technology.


The accident dates to early December, when California resident Oscar Nilsson claimed he was riding behind one of GM’s autonomous Bolts when, suddenly, the car veered into his lane and knocked him to the ground. A safety driver was at the wheel of the Bolt during the Dec. 7 crash, according to the complaint, which happened in downtown San Francisco.

GM acknowledged the aborted lane change in a crash report filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, but didn’t admit fault and offered a different narrative, claiming Nilsson had been riding between two lanes when he “moved into the center lane, glanced the side of the [car]… wobbled, and fell over.”

Nevertheless, Nilsson said in the suit that the accident required him to take disability leave for shoulder and neck injuries. His complaint represented the first lawsuit to be filed over a crash involving a self-driving car, at a time when many questions remain unanswered over who should be held liable in a crash.

But however it would’ve panned out won’t be known. On Wednesday, GM and Nilsson’s attorneys told a federal court the matter had been settle.d

“The parties anticipate finalizing all details and filing a joint stipulation for dismissal with prejudice within thirty (30) days, or before June 29, 2018,” the filing said.


Sergei Lemberg, an attorney for Nilsson, told Jalopnik: “The case has been resolved to my client’s satisfaction.” A GM spokesperson confirmed the deal: “The parties have mutually agreed to resolve a lawsuit filed by a motorcyclist following a minor traffic incident in late 2017.”

The settlement puts aside a possibly thorny legal issue for GM as the automaker moves to speed up the development of its autonomous car technology. The company received a major endorsement Thursday from technology investment firm SoftBank Vision Fund, which announced plans to invest $2.25 billion in GM’s self-driving car division.


GM kicked off 2018 with the introduction of a driverless Bolt that has no brakes or a steering wheel, and said it wants to deploy the cars for a driverless ride-hailing service by 2019. It’ll have to overcome immense concerns from the general public, which remains skeptical of autonomous vehicles, even more so after recent fatal crashes involving a self-driving Uber and a semi-autonomous Tesla Model X. A week after the deadly Uber crash, one of GM’s Bolts received a ticket in San Francisco for being too close to a pedestrian.


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What the motorcycle rider claims:

“Oscar Nilsson claimed he was riding behind one of GM’s autonomous Bolts when, suddenly, the car veered into his lane and knocked him to the ground.”

What it actually says in the police report:

“the motorcyclist was determined to be at fault for attempting to overtake and pass another vehicle on the right under conditions that did not permit that movement in safety in violation of CVC 21755(a).”

My guess is GM settled this to save on legal fees and paying off this guy even though he, not GM, was found to be at fault.

I’m also guessing that the Chevy was starting to make the lane change and Nilsson decided to try to squeeze past and made an error in judgement.