Are Autonomous Taxis Ready for the Streets of San Francisco?

Reports of accidents and malfunctions involving autonomous taxis in San Francisco have sparked a debate among residents. General Motors’ Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo have experienced incidents where their autonomous taxis stalled on the streets and collided with objects and vehicles, including emergency responders. One incident involved a Cruise vehicle getting stuck in wet cement and another collision happening with a fire truck.

Following these incidents, the San Francisco Fire Department called for a review of the technology, emphasizing the need for safety improvements. It is important to note that Cruise released a statement explaining that their vehicle had identified the risk of a collision and initiated a braking maneuver, but was unable to avoid the accident due to the challenges of the specific intersection.

Autonomous taxis became a hot button issue in May 2018 when the California Public Utilities Commission authorized pilot programs for autonomous vehicle passenger service. Since then, there have been a total of 532 collisions involving autonomous cars in California. Some of these accidents occurred while the car was in full control in autonomous mode, while others happened while the car was being controlled by a test driver.

Despite these incidents, the California Public Utilities Commission voted to expand the operating authority of Cruise and Waymo in August 2023. Both companies have emphasized the safety benefits of autonomous vehicles on their websites and provided resources for first responders. However, some residents and officials in San Francisco believe that more regulation and higher safety standards are needed before the technology can operate safely in the city.

Aaron Peskin, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, expressed the need for a rational deployment of autonomous vehicles and called for industry and state regulators to hold the technology to a higher safety standard. While there are concerns, Peskin emphasized that they are not against the deployment of autonomous vehicles but rather want to ensure they are implemented in a safe and regulated manner.

As the debate continues, it remains to be seen how autonomous taxis will navigate the streets of San Francisco and whether the technology is truly ready for widespread use.

– NBC Bay Area
– California Public Utilities Commission