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San Francisco is getting chilly toes about self-driving automobile exams



San Francisco officers have known as for a slower, extra thought of growth of the usage of autonomous autos, which have blocked site visitors and hampered emergency providers


31 January 2023

Cruise is providing free rides in its driverless vehicles to non-employees in San Francisco

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg by way of Getty Photographs

Officers in San Francisco have requested for a halt to the growth of driverless automobile exams throughout town after a sequence of incidents which have hampered the work of emergency providers.

San Francisco’s place on the coronary heart of Silicon Valley and its wealth of know-how expertise has made it a hotbed for the driverless automobile business. Each Waymo, owned by Google’s guardian firm Alphabet, and Cruise, owned by Common Motors, function experimental robotic taxi providers within the metropolis. However they haven’t been with out issues.

New Scientist has beforehand reported how autonomous autos (AV) from Cruise, for instance, have randomly stopped and blocked site visitors and had a run-in with police. However particulars of different incidents with driverless vehicles have now emerged in letters from metropolis officers.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) has written to the California Public Utilities Fee (CPUC) saying that managers within the Metropolis’s Division of Emergency Administration started to note quite a lot of 911 calls final yr from individuals who had seen such vehicles cease with out motive and block site visitors, in addition to “erratic driving”, akin to indicating in a single route and shifting within the different.

These sudden stops on busy streets vary from minutes to hours, says one of many letters, giving an instance of a Cruise automobile that reportedly stopped and blocked a San Francisco Hearth Division automobile on its approach to a hearth. In one other incident, a Cruise automobile entered an space the place firefighters have been working and almost ran over their hoses – it solely stopped when firefighters shattered the entrance window of the automobile.

Each Cruise and Waymo at present function small fleets between the hours of 10pm and 6am in a confined space of San Francisco, however every has utilized for permission to unfold additional throughout town and function extra vehicles 24 hours a day.

The SFCTA has now written separate letters to the CPUC about each Cruise’s and Waymo’s growth plans and known as for “restraint… rather than rapid expansion”.

“Cruise AVs have made unplanned and unexpected stops in travel lanes where they obstruct traffic and transit service, and intruding into active emergency response scenes,” says the letter about Cruise. “If the Commission approves sweeping authorizations for both Waymo and Cruise, the hazards and network impacts… could soon affect a large percentage of all San Francisco travelers.”

Neither Cruise nor Waymo responded to a request for remark by New Scientist. Nevertheless, in an announcement, Cruise has emphasised that its security report “includes having driven millions of miles in an extremely complex urban environment with zero life-threatening injuries or fatalities”. A Waymo spokesperson has mentioned that the letters aere “a standard part of the regulatory process” and the corporate would proceed its “healthy dialogue” with metropolis officers.

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