San Francisco opposes robotaxi expansion after erratic behavior of vehicles

San Francisco opposes robotaxi expansion after erratic behavior of vehicles

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San Francisco authorities are opposing an expansion of self-driving robotaxi services in the city because of ongoing issues and erratic behavior demonstrated by driverless vehicles within its borders.

The San Francisco Country Transportation Authority is opposing two applications by Alphanet Inc.-owned Waymo LLC and General Motor Co.’s Cruise to expand their services due. the authority claims that vehicles from both companies make “unplanned and unexpected stops in travel lanes where they obstruct traffic and transit service and intrude into active emergency response scenes.” In two letters to the California Public Utilities Commission, the authority argues that any expansion of services from both companies “may soon affect a large percentage of all San Francisco travelers.”

The term first world problems may be well known, but San Francisco has a more modern take – self-driving robotaxi problems. Issues with Waymo vehicles first gained widespread attention in October 2021 when they started flocking to a dead-end street in San Francisco, but no one seemingly knew why.

The problems have gotten worse since. According to NBC News, a recent instance involved five disabled Cruise vehicles blocking a street and access to a city bus with 45 riders on it. The vehicles have also interfered with active firefighting, with one vehicle having to be physically stopped from running over a firehose.

Driverless Cruise vehicles are also alleged to have been making unnecessary 911 calls. The taxis are said to have called 911 on three occasions when passengers have fallen asleep during a trip, wasting precious emergency services time.

To its credit, the authority is not calling for the vehicles to be banned but for their adoption to be slowed down.

“San Francisco recommends that further restraint and demonstrated improved performance, rather than rapid expansion of geographic area and service hours,” the authority writes. “Cruise and Waymo now both seek blanket approval to provide unlimited commercial operations.”

“While the Commission should consider each of these advice letters on their own merits, it should also be mindful of the cumulative effects on the city’s transportation network if these problems in Cruise operations continue and are replicated by similar problems from Waymo,” the authority added. “We urge the Commission to understand recent road and transit blockages as a message to proceed with caution and to continue its incremental approach to approving driverless [robotaxi] expansion.”

Photo: Waymo

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