They held up San Francisco traffic for hours.
GM's autonomous taxi service, Cruise, recently went live in San Francisco. According to various reports, things ran smoothly for a few days, but the autonomous cars went on strike last Tuesday. Or at least we think they did because it's not yet clear what happened.
It appears six Cruise-owned Chevrolet Bolts all had an existential crisis at the intersection of Gough and Fulton streets. Thankfully, Cruise is only allowed to operate between 10 pm and 5 am, which means it had no impact on rush hour traffic. The locals were still not pleased, however. Even late at night, this disruption apparently blocked Es Ef traffic for hours.
It's an odd occurrence, considering GM had to jump through multiple hoops to get approval for this program.
The robotaxis blocked most of the street, leaving only one lane open for other traffic. Reddit users were the first to latch on to the incident, reporting it happened around midnight. Six or seven Cruise employees attended the blockage, with the first arriving just 20 minutes later, putting up a traffic triangle.
Once more employees arrived, the cars could be moved manually and out of the way.
This is not the first time an incident like this happened. According to local reports, another cluster of self-driving Bolts decided they were done for the day. An unverified report, also on Reddit, claims that the same thing happened earlier in the month, less than two miles away. The car displayed a message to the dismayed customers, stating that the vehicle would be parked until an actual human arrived to take care of the problem.
In early April, another autonomous Bolt fled from the police, but it was let off with a warning.
If one poster on Reddit is to be believed, these vehicle retrieval events (VRE) are just the tip of the iceberg. The fact that Cruise already has a marketing phrase for such an occurrence is bothersome. The anonymous poster claims to work for Cruise and states it is a "highly chaotic environment where safety-related discussion is routinely discouraged."
The poster also claims that Cruise sent a letter to the California Public Entities Commission stating that these events might become more frequent and could block first responders from getting to the scene of a fire, crash, or accident.
So far, Cruise has only responded to TechCrunch. "We had an issue earlier this week that caused some of our vehicles to cluster together," a Cruise spokesperson said. "While it was resolved and no passengers were impacted, we apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced."