Technology sometimes causes more problems than it solves, innovation not necessarily being synonymous with progress. Transport officials in San Francisco County (California) are exasperated by the multiple incidents that have occurred in recent months with the arrival of autonomous taxis on the streets of the megalopolis. Two letters have been sent to the California transportation regulator to reduce the deployment of the devices, according to The Verge who relays the information.
Virtual bugs with real consequences
In the sights of county officials, Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors and Waymo owned by Alphabet (Google). The two companies are the only ones to have obtained authorizations to offer driverless journeys to passengers in the region. An experiment for several months which seems to create many traffic problems, but also security.
“A series of limited rollouts with incremental expansions—rather than unlimited permissions—provides the best path to public confidence in driving automation and industry success in San Francisco and beyond”say the authors of the letter to the regulator.
In July 2022, a number of Cruise vehicles suddenly ceased to operate for several hours, congesting much of the metropolis. This bug reoccurred again last September. At the same time, a traffic jam was created this month after the sudden stoppage of a Waymo device. In December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the US federal agency responsible for traffic safety, opened an investigation into the sudden blockages of Cruise’s cars.
Firefighters hampered by autonomous taxis
Even more worrying, robot taxis could interfere with the work of firefighters. In April 2022, an autonomous Cruise vehicle suddenly stopped on the roadway while an emergency vehicle was going to a major fire. An obstruction that could have disrupted the intervention time. A few months later, another device would have simply tried to“crush a hose used on an active fire”. The firefighters then had to break the window to stop him.
Finally, emergency services were reportedly called three times by Cruise vehicles after a passenger was reported “unresponsive” by the car system. Service customers had actually fallen asleep in the vehicle…
“Cruise’s safety record is publicly available and includes millions of miles traveled in an extremely complex urban environment, without any life-threatening injuries or fatalities to passengers”reacted for his part Aaron Mclear, spokesman for Cruise quoted by The Verge. And Katherine Barna, spokesperson for Waymo, to mention: “These letters are a standard part of the regulatory process and we have long enjoyed a healthy dialogue with city officials and government agencies in California.”
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