Only a few days after having authorized autonomous robotaxis to drive at any time in its streets, San Francisco finds itself in the grip of a delicate situation: the famous machines have been victims of a bug, thus creating a traffic jam.
It’s a scenario that Hollywood’s best screenwriters have imagined dozens, hundreds of times: robots wreaking havoc on a big city. But could they have anticipated that it could happen only a few hundred kilometers from home, and so quickly?
It is the city of San Francisco which has in fact been plagued by a major problem for several days created by its robotaxis, these autonomous taxis which have just been authorized to drive around at any time of the day and the night. Except that scenes of disturbance where these vehicles literally block the city were filmed and relayed on social networks.
months of debate
It is a debate that has agitated the Californian city for months: that of allowing these vehicles the possibility, or not, of being able to drive at any time of the day. And only a few days ago, on August 10, the California Public Utilities Commission ruled, officially authorizing fleets of autonomous taxis to operate 24 hours a day, but also now to take passengers.
This concerns two services, that of Alphabet, called Waymo, and that of General Motors called Cruise. 100% self-driving alternatives to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Except that it didn’t take long for reality to prove the critics of robotaxis right by showing that these services are still far from being infallible.
#sanfrancisco #cruise #waymo #outsidelands
♬ Coconut Mall (From “Mario Kart Wii”) – Arcade Player
Cars blocking traffic
Indeed, the next day, videos showed that the autonomous cars in question, without any human assistance therefore, can have malfunctions. Like on the sidelines of this Outside Lands music festival where no less than a dozen Cruise vehicles stopped in the middle of the road in the North Beach district, for no apparent reason, creating heavy traffic jams. And all with the hazard lights on. Probably proof of a common dysfunction.
Still, the vehicles in question, electric Chevrolet Bolts, remained motionless for about 20 minutes.
😬 @Cruise self-driving operations had a complete meltdown earlier in North Beach. We overheard on the scanner that all Cruise vehicle agents were tied up at the time (not literally) and so North Beach was going to get a delayed response. But wow, WTF!pic.twitter.com/D89xrSxAdu
— FriscoLive415 (@friscolive415) August 12, 2023
Cruise defends himself (as he can)
After many videos were posted on social networks, the Cruise service took the liberty of answering on X (ex-Twitter), explaining the why and how. And these immobile cars, warning lights on, would have been caused by a wireless connectivity problem.
As reported by the American site InsideEVs, the fact that these cars stopped near a festival gathering a lot of people is not a coincidence, since it was a problem of wireless bandwidth that “delayed the vehicles”. Basically the connectivity wasn’t good enough so no one was answering anymore. What the San Francisco police have confirmed.
Is everything questioned?
In any case, this is enough to give food for thought to the detractors of these autonomous transport services, like Aaron Peskin, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who threatens to take action against the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission. And his arguments are indeed more than valid, explaining that in the event of a connectivity failure, electricity failure or natural disaster, these self-driving cars could once again block the streets, even though this is the time when vehicles of emergency would need to be able to move freely.
While waiting to know what will be decided for the future, other videos published in recent days come in any case to undermine these autonomous robotaxis released in the streets of San Francisco. Like this one which shows a car stopping to let pedestrians pass on a dedicated passage, before restarting and brushing against other pedestrians crossing.
—enelay (@enelayy) August 14, 2023