San Francisco

‘Ain't Nobody in It:' San Francisco Police Stop Self-Driving Car

The interaction, captured on video, appears like an ordinary traffic stop as the officer gets out to speak with the driver — until he realizes no one's in the vehicle

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The future is here, and it has everybody talking.

Video surfaced on social media showing a self-driving car, a Cruise vehicle, getting pulled over by police in San Francisco, and it's getting a lot of reaction.

Cruise is a San Francisco-based company that focuses on self-driving cars.

The interaction in the video appears like an ordinary traffic stop as the officer gets out to speak with the driver — until he realizes there isn't one. In fact, there were no humans in the car at all.

"Ain't nobody in it," the officer said.

Brandon Melim captured video of the futuristic traffic stop and said he was "super surprised because one, I've never seen one of those cars actually drive autonomously."

In the video, after the officer peers in the driver's side window for a few seconds and then returns to his cruiser, the car pulls away, passing through an intersection just ahead and again returning to the side of the road.

Melim and others thought he was seeing the Cruise car evade police after getting pulled over.

Everyone, including police, were laughing.

"I think they might have been embarrassed because a lot of people were looking at them at the time," Melim explained. "Or they just thought the entire situation was funny."

It turns out police had pulled the car over because its headlights were off.

Cruise said in a statement that the vehicle yielded to police, then pulled over to the nearest safe location for a traffic stop.

The company also said they work closely with the San Francisco Police Department on how to interact with these vehicles, and have dedicated phone numbers for them to call.

However, experts think the clear confusion in the video shows that better protocols are needed.

"Clearly the police were confused they didn’t know what to do," said Stanford University professor Ronjon Nag. "We need to have processes and protocols and standards where cars can communicate. Maybe there's a switch where the cars can be stopped by the police."

Nag also said there should be a bigger effort in training officers and other first responders on what to do with these self-driving vehicles in different scenarios.

Automakers are envisioning what life on the road will be like once driving “by hand” becomes optional, in a series of bold concept cars shown off at CES in Las Vegas, and back here in Silicon Valley.

Cruise first started offering free nighttime rides in San Francisco earlier this year. Those who have ridden in them say they are safe.

"I did not feel like I was being driven around by a computer," said Aditya Mukherji. "I felt like it was a real human."

He said they went up hills and passed jaywalkers and Muni buses. He was really surprised by how well the car maneuvers.

"The experience was magical," he said.

NBC Bay Area reached out to the San Francisco Police Department for comment, but have not heard back.

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