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Robotaxis Get the Nod in San Fran

image of Robotaxis

The day after California regulators handed driverless car companies a major victory, allowing them to expand their services without restriction in San Francisco, a herd of robotaxis decided to celebrate by breaking down in the middle of a busy street.

From an article in The Verge by Andrew J. Hawkins.

According to several local news reports, 10 Cruise vehicles sat paralyzed in a busy intersection near the Outside Lands Music Festival, causing a traffic jam and drawing exasperation from witnesses. The company told KPIX that the music festival caused “wireless connectivity issues” with its vehicles. In other words, festivalgoers were overwhelming the cellular networks, making it difficult for Cruise’s vehicles to send and receive information.

It was a bizarre end to a week that otherwise represented a significant milestone in the development of autonomous vehicles. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) overrode the concerns of San Francisco’s transit and fire officials as well as several hundred local residents who testified during the six-and-a-half-hour hearing to approve a dramatic expansion of robotaxi services in the city. The orange cone protest did not achieve its desired outcome.

And it was a sign of more conflict to come, as cities that serve as ground zero for this science experiment face pushback from states that set the rules of the road for driverless cars and seek out conformity in how the technology is regulated.

“Every blocked traffic incident is going to add to degrading public opinion and enthusiasm for robotaxis, regardless of which company is having the problems,” said Philip Koopman, a Carnegie Mellon University professor who has conducted research on autonomous vehicle safety for decades. “When a large adverse event eventually happens, all that pent up public opinion is going to make it much more difficult for companies to deal with the situation.”

The sight of a robot traffic jam was unfortunately all too familiar in San Francisco. For months, city officials have complained about blocked roads, obstructed emergency response vehicles, and other bizarre behavior by these driverless cars. A Waymo vehicle ran over and killed a small dog — inspiring a street painting memorializing the martyred canine. And as more vehicles are deployed and the companies begin commercializing the service, more obstructions are to be expected.

For the complete article on robotaxis CLICK HERE.

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