The driverless taxi uprising has begun.
The robotic future is here, though it looks less frightening than many of us probably expected. Cruise, an autonomous vehicle development firm, has been testing its robotaxis on the streets of San Francisco and recently began carrying passengers on limited routes. A recent video captured during a traffic stop shows how hilarious and frustrating it can be when a driverless car goes rogue, as a Cruise taxi "flees" police and creates an awkward situation for the officers involved.
The video shows confused officers trying to figure out what to do with the driverless Chevy Bolt, and one appears to be phoning a superior for guidance. It doesn't look like there's a passenger on board, though it's possible to see the array of displays inside the car. Machines clearly don't have emotions, but the vehicle appears to realize its mistake because after running off, it stops a half-block later and turns on its emergency lights.
Though funny, the interaction shows the disconnect between technology and existing systems like law enforcement and infrastructure. Law enforcement and first responders in the area have guidelines on dealing with autonomous cars, but these officers appear to have missed the memo. Imagine this confusing incident multiplied across every town in the country, and the scope of the challenges ahead of driverless cars starts to come into focus.
Cruise can conduct passenger rides between 10 pm and 6 am in the city. The cars are limited to 30 mph and are allowed to operate in light fog and rain. California has allowed Cruise to test autonomous vehicles on public roads for several years and has permitted testing without a human on board since late 2020. Google's Waymo, a serious Cruise competitor, gained permission to charge for its Chrysler Pacifica-based robotaxi rides earlier this year, but its permit requires a human to be present for safety purposes.
The car itself is just the tip of the spear in autonomous vehicles, as the car's "brain" is what makes everything work together. Cruise bases its cars on the Bolt EV platform and says its array of sensors can "see" hundreds of feet ahead and create a 360-degree picture of the world around the car. Modifications are extensive, with 40 percent of the car's hardware dedicated to self-driving functionality. Cruise says its hardware considers multiple paths per second and constantly assesses its decision process to navigate city streets.
GM recently made a move to increase its stake in Cruise, buying out SoftBank's share for $2.1 billion. The investment upped GM's Cruise ownership to around 80 percent, and the automaker says it expects to reach $50 billion in revenue by 2030.