San Francisco transportation officials want Waymo and Cruise to delay the expansion of their robotaxi services in the city over safety concerns. as previously reported by NBC News. In two letters written to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), San Francisco County Transportation Authority officials say the expansion of both services “is unreasonable,” citing recent incidents where stopped self-driving vehicles blocked traffic and hindered emergency responders.
GM-backed Cruise and Alphabet-owned Waymo are currently the only companies allowed to offer driverless rides to passengers in San Francisco. In June, Cruise won a license to charge for rides in its autonomous vehicles (AV) between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., while Waymo was granted a license to offer fully self-driving rides a few months later. Unlike Cruise, Waymo still cannot charge for driverless rides, as it is still waiting for an additional license from the CPUC.
Now that both companies have had their fully self-driving vehicles roaming the streets of San Francisco for several months, we’re starting to see the vehicles’ response—or lack thereof—to complex traffic situations.
In July, a group of Cruise unmanned vehicles blocked traffic for hours after the cars inexplicably stopped working similar incident occurred in September. Meanwhile a driverless Waymo vehicle caused a traffic jam in San Francisco after it stopped in the middle of an intersection earlier this month. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into Cruise last December over concerns the vehicles were blocking traffic and causing rear-end collisions under heavy braking.
“A series of limited deployments with incremental expansions – rather than unlimited authorizations – provide the best path to public confidence in driving automation and industry success in San Francisco and beyond,” the letter reads.
Firefighters say they were only able to prevent a Cruise vehicle from running over the hose after “they shattered a windshield” from the car
However, city officials are also expressing concern about how self-driving vehicles interact with emergency vehicles. Last April, officials said an autonomous Cruise vehicle stopped in a roadway and “obstacled a San Francisco Fire Department vehicle en route to a 3-alarm fire.”
Months later, a Cruise AV “ran over a fire station in use at an active fire scene,” and another Cruise vehicle nearly did the same at an active firefighting scene earlier this month. Firefighters say they were only able to prevent the vehicle from running over the hose after “they shattered a windshield” from the car. In other incidents, Cruise called 911 on three separate occasions about “unresponsive” passengers, only for emergency services to arrive to find the rider had just fallen asleep.
“Cruise’s safety record is publicly reported and includes having driven millions of miles in an extremely complex urban environment without life-threatening injuries or fatalities,” said Cruise spokesman Aaron Mclear. The edge.
While the San Francisco Transportation Authority supports the expansion of self-driving technology, it wants more transparency and additional safeguards. Officials say companies should be required to collect more data on the performance of the vehicles, including how often and for how long their self-driving vehicles block traffic. It also wants to ban AV companies from operating on San Francisco’s “core streets” during rush hours until they prove they can operate consistently “without significant disruption to street operations and transit services.”
Still, Cruise wants to operate its paid robotaxi service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in San Francisco. While the company received approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles in December, it is still waiting for the green light from CPUC. Both companies already offer rides in Phoenix, Arizona, and Cruise also brought its robotaxi service to Austin, Texas.
“These letters are a standard part of the regulatory process, and we have long valued a healthy dialogue with California city officials and state agencies,” Waymo spokesperson Katherine Barna said in a statement to The edge. “Waymo will have a chance to comment on our submission to the CPUC next week.”