Cruise car in Hayes Valley, San Francisco

Cruise and Waymo’s driverless robotaxis divide San Francisco

Credit: Cruise

The California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) decision to allow Cruise and Waymo’s driverless robotaxis to operate a paid service in San Francisco 24 hours a day could be considered as a step towards the mainstream adoption of self-driving cars. Residents of the city, however, appear to be divided about the self-driving vehicles. 

The signs have always been there. Even during the CPUC’s vote earlier this month, residents expressed opposing views on self-driving technology. Critics of the driverless cars argued that the vehicles were unsafe and their technology was not ready for public roads. Supporters argued that the vehicles have the potential to make roads safer. 

As observed by BBC News, a faction against robotaxis has now emerged in San Francisco. Members of the group believe that the city has agreed to become the site of a dangerous experiment involving two-ton machines and a technology that’s not ready for prime time. Some who are against Cruise and Waymo have even gone as far as intentionally disabling the vehicles. 

Over the summer, a group that called itself Safe Street Rebel started posting videos of its members “coning” Cruise and Waymo roboatxis. As noted by the group, putting a cone on the hood of a robotaxi stops the vehicle from moving. In a comment to the BBC, one of the group’s members, who opted to remain anonymous, stated that coning may be one of the first physical protests against AI, and such actions are going to become more commonplace. 

The Safe Street Real member noted that critics of Waymo and Cruise are coning robotaxis because people’s concerns about the vehicles are not being acknowledged. “We’re definitely not vigilantes. We’re just the community self-organizing to make ourselves heard,” the member noted. 

Waymo, for its part, has highlighted that its vehicles are safe, having clocked over 2 million miles of driverless driving with no accidents with a pedestrian or cyclist. The company also highlighted that so far, every vehicle-to-vehicle collision involving a Waymo driverless vehicle involved a human driver breaking traffic rules or driving dangerously. 

Cruise, on the other hand, has noted that it has completed three million driverless miles, and the company has a strong safety record. While this may be the case, some residents of San Francisco have observed that some of Cruise’s vehicles still make notable errors that inconvenience people. 

This was highlighted by representatives of garbage disposal trucks during the CPUC meeting, when they noted that the robotaxis often broke down and blocked their vehicles. San Francisco’s fire service shared criticism of the vehicles as well, noting that they have been obstructed by robotaxis 55 times this year. 

Watcha feature on Cruise and Waymo’s coming incidents in the video below.

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Cruise and Waymo’s driverless robotaxis divide San Francisco
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