Over the past six months, 92 San Francisco residents have called 911 to report unsafe, traffic-obstructing, or just plain unexplained behavior by self-driving cars. This is evidenced by the data in a letter that was sent by local transportation officials to the state regulator.
The signatories of the letter, the directors of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, and the Mayor’s Office on Disability, oppose the significant expansion of testing of the city’s two fully driverless taxi services, Cruise and Waymo. In particular, the authorities are concerned about the fundamental problems for the general public arising from Cruise AV activities.
Between May 29 and December 31, the city saw a sharp increase in calls to 911 about autonomous vehicles (AVs) blocking lanes and intersections, driving erratically, and performing “evasive maneuvers required by other road users.”
As the incidents occurred between 10 pm and 6 am, the blockages did not have the disruptive impact they might have had they occurred in the middle of the day or during rush hour. A total of 92 separate incidents were serious enough that someone called 911, but the letter said there could have been many more because they occurred “when fewer travelers are on the streets to observe them.”
The letter also cites numerous examples of Cruise cars surrounding municipal buses, impeding their movement and causing delays. They also interfered with extinguishing fires. The letter states that on June 12, the Cruise “ran over a fire hose that was in use at an active fire scene,” a violation of the California Vehicle Code. On January 21, 2023, the Cruise AV entered the scene of an active fire, drove up to fire hoses lying on the ground, and did not stop despite the efforts of firefighters.
“They were not able to do so,” the letter says, “until they shattered the front window of the Cruise AV.”
In turn, the Cruise company itself has repeatedly called 911 about passengers who fell asleep in automated taxis.
A Cruise representative said to Motherboard:
“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. We’re proud that the overwhelming majority of public comments — including from advocates in the disability community, small businesses and local community groups — support expanding Cruise’s all-electric driverless service to serve the full city.”
To WIRED, Cruise reported that the car, the windshield of which was shattered by the firefighters, was already standing in place, and explained the 911 calls to sleeping passengers by the fact that it is necessary to “to ensure that passengers who are unresponsive are safe.”
Self-driving cars becoming a public problem because of shoddy software is a scenario self-driving car skeptics have warned about since the concept caught the attention of investors in the mid-2010s.