Autonomous vehicles suffered a setback in San Francisco when up to 10 cruise line self-driving taxis stalled, causing traffic congestion in the North Beach area. That incident came just a day after California regulators approved a controversial plan that would allow robo-taxis to run around the city 24 hours a day.
Wireless bandwidth limitations at a major festival were reportedly causing a delay in Cruise vehicle connectivity, leading to a traffic jam. Acknowledging the issue, Cruise stated that they are actively investigating the situation and are working to prevent future incidents.
However, critics of autonomous vehicles have raised concerns about the risks associated with their expanded use, including the possibility of emergency vehicles such as ambulances and fire engines being blocked. As a result, Aaron Peskin, chairman of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, announced that government agencies would ask the state to reconsider approving robotics services.
The recent decision by the California Public Utilities Commission allowed Cruise and Waymo to operate their driverless vehicle fleets 24 hours a day in San Francisco, making the city the first city in the United States to have two autonomous taxi services. However, some city officials and local residents have expressed doubts about the integration of robotic taxis due to previous frustrations with the technology during testing.
Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, and Waymo, a Google spin-off, have poured billions of dollars into developing their autonomous technology, emphasizing the impeccable safety record compared to human-powered vehicles.
During the approval process, San Francisco Fire Department Superintendent Jeanine Nicholson raised concerns about the impact of autonomous vehicles on emergency response. Nicholson disputed the companies’ driving records, citing 55 written reports of robotic taxis interfering with emergency services.
Given the ongoing regulatory challenges, the San Francisco incident underscores the need for careful consideration and further improvements in the implementation of autonomous vehicles.