San Franciscans Keep Calling 911 About Baffling Self-Driving Car Behavior

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Moveable explores the futurity of transportation, infrastructure, energy, and cities.

People called 911 to report dangerous, traffic-clogging, or otherwise just inexplainable cocky-driving car behavior for 92 separate incidents in San Francisco during the last 6 months of 2022, co-ordinate to a letter sent by local transit officials to a state regulator.

The letter, signed past the directors of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Francisco County Transportation Dominance, and the Mayor’s Office on Disability, opposes a huge service expansion requested by the 2 fully self-driving taxi services in the metropolis, Cruise and Waymo. In item, the regime are worried by the “fundamental issues for the general public raised by Cruise AV functioning.

Between May 29 and December 31, the city started getting a sharp increase in 911 calls near democratic vehicles (AVs) blocking lanes and intersections, erratic driving, and “evasive maneuvers required past other road users,” co-ordinate to the letter of the alphabet. These incidents ranged from lasting a few light cycles to several hours. Co-ordinate to the letter, fifteen pct of reported cases involved multiple Cruise AVs “in clusters that obstructed multiple travel lanes and directions of travel.” Considering these incidents happened betwixt ten pm and 6 am—the electric current limitations on operating hours—the blockades didn’t take the disruptive impact they might accept if they occurred during the middle of the day or rush hr. In total, 92 separate incidents were bad enough that someone called 911, but the letter notes it could have been far more because they occur “when few travelers are on the streets to observe them.” Cruise operates 30 AVs in San Francisco.

The letter also cites multiple examples where Prowl vehicles surrounded Muni buses preventing them from moving and causing delays, some which had been previously reported past local news services. If these incidents occurred during peak hours, as Cruise seeks permission to operate during, each incident lone would take delayed around 3,000 bus riders, the letter says.

Cruise vehicles have also interfered with fighting fires. The letter says that on June 12, a Cruise AV “ran over a burn hose that was in utilise at an active fire scene,” in violation of the California Vehicle Code. On January 21, 2023, a Cruise AV entered an active fire scene, drove towards the burn down hoses on the ground, and failed to stop despite “efforts” fabricated by the firefighters on scene to block it. They were “not able to do and then,” the letter says, “until they shattered a front window of the Cruise AV.”

Cruise has likewise called 911 multiple times for “unresponsive” passengers who, when emergency crews showed upwardly, turned out to exist sleeping.

Cruise has a long history of shoddy performance and overstating its vehicle capabilities, which first came to calorie-free in a 2018 investigation past The Information. Information technology has been the subject of multiple federal probes over AV crashes. Many of its San Francisco blockades have been the effect of software crashes. WIRED reported an bearding Cruise employee sent a letter in July to the California Utilities Commission, which regulates the deployment of AVs in the state, warning that the company loses contact with its driverless vehicles “with regularity.” Self-driving cars becoming a public nuisance due to shoddy software is the kind of scenario AV skeptics take been warning about since the concept gained widespread investor attention in the mid-2010s.

The letter states that while the “large bulk of unplanned travel lane AV stops reported through December 2022 involved Prowl AVs rather than Waymo vehicles,” it believes the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the deployment of AVs in the state, doesn’t collect enough information, such as vehicle miles traveled in autonomous style, to know to what caste this reflects better performance. The articulation letter of the alphabet by the transit authorities and Mayor’s office argues that the combined operation of the company’southward AVs accept not been good enough to merit expanding service 24/7, letting the companies make up one’s mind for themselves when and where to offer service. Instead, they argue for a continued incremental approach of gradually expanding service to more than neighborhoods and times of day as performance improves.

In a written argument, a Prowl spokesperson told Motherboard, “Cruise’s safety record is publicly reported and includes having driven millions of miles in an extremely complex urban environment with zero life-threatening injuries or fatalities. We’re proud that the overwhelming majority of public comments—including from advocates in the disability community, modest businesses and local customs groups—support expanding Cruise’s all-electric driverless service to serve the total city.” Cruise told WIRED that the vehicle that had its windshield broken by firefighters was already stationary, and defended the company calling 911 on sleeping passengers “to ensure that passengers who are unresponsive are rubber.”


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