Too many incidents have occurred where driverless cars have caused extra traffic and disrupted emergency services.
San Francisco transport officials want Cruise and Waymo's driverless robotaxi services to have less free reign in the city, reports NBC News.
In a letter sent to regional regulators, the officials note that "San Francisco is excited about the potential that automated driving could expand the menu of transportation choices available in the city," adding that it hopes "driving automation technology will contribute to improving street safety." But that's where the positivity ends.
The letter also points out that, in the months since they were initially approved, Cruise autonomous vehicles have "made unplanned and unexpected stops in travels lanes [and intruded] into active emergency response scenes."
While these vehicles have not been responsible for any road fatalities, they have been a nuisance. In one instance, an unoccupied Cruise autonomous vehicle slowly fled from police. In another, five disabled Cruise vehicles blocked a street, causing a city bus with 45 occupants to be delayed for almost a quarter of an hour. While these events are funny or frustrating, some are less laughable. On one occasion, firefighters reportedly had to shatter an autonomous vehicle's window in order to prevent it from driving over their firehoses.
Essentially, San Francisco traffic officials don't have a problem with autonomous vehicles and services, and they don't mind if these services expand, but they can no longer accept that these vehicles can work anywhere in the city (such as the center) at any time of the day (such as during peak hours).
If regulators give Cruise and Waymo free rein, the fear is that more hazards will arise and more congestion will occur. However, Cruise has argued that its service is safer than most. "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," said Cruise spokesperson Drew Pusateri. But there have been crashes, as noted in a recall of driverless Chevrolet Bolt EVs in September last year.
With all these factors in mind, transport officials want three things: incrementalism, transparency, and better reporting and monitoring. Basically, the services should not be given free rein yet but should slowly scale up. They should also show how they work and how they're improving, and this progress must be easily accessible by the public, both in terms of testing data and commercial deployment.
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