Early On an April morning at around 4 a.m., a San Francisco Fire Department truck that arrived at the scene of the fire attempted to pass a double-parked garbage truck into the oncoming lane. But traveling autonomous carcontrolled General Motors a subsidiary of Cruise, with no one inside, blocked his path. While the person could have reversed to clear the lane, the Cruise car remained in place. The fire truck only got through the traffic jam after the driver of the garbage truck left work to get his car out.
“This incident slowed SFFD’s response to the fire, which resulted in property damage and injury,” the city wrote in a statement filed with the California Public Utilities Commission. The city wrote that the fire department is concerned that cruise vehicles are stopping too often in lanes, which could have a “negative impact” on firefighters’ response time.
It’s the most unnerving of several cruise car incidents being reported in the city of San Francisco as officials object to parts of a proposed permit program developed by the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates travel across the state.
Tiffany Testo, a spokesperson for Cruise, confirmed the incident. She said the self-driving vehicle correctly yielded to an oncoming fire engine in the oncoming lane, and contacted the company’s remote assistance workers, who can drive vehicles in distress from afar. The fire truck was able to move forward 25 seconds after it first collided with the autonomous vehicle, according to Cruz, who collects data from the cameras and sensors of his test vehicles. Testo said in a statement that Cruz is “working closely with first responders, including the SFFD, and has been in touch with them about this meeting.” The city said in a statement that the department requested a meeting with Cruz about the incident, but it has yet to take place.
The SFFD and the San Francisco Public Transportation Agency, which regulates city traffic, did not respond to requests for comment.
In San Francisco, Cruz is just one of a number of self-driving car developers who say they are working to create safer driving in the future. WaymoAlphabet, a subsidiary of Google and Zoox, now owned by Amazonboth are present on the city’s steep, winding roads, and locals don’t have to travel far to see the sensor-laden Jaguar I-Paces, Chevrolet bolts, and Toyota Highlanders lay routes through the city center and residential areas. Now Cruise is applying for a permit that would allow it to run the first driverless taxi service in the state. A vast and costly science experiment could also change the way many citizens navigate their cities.
San Francisco reports two more incidents: one in late April, when a Cruise vehicle passing through a work area stopped at a crosswalk and did not move for five minutes, blocking traffic; and another one in April, filmed on camerawherein Police stop cruise car without driver because it didn’t have headlights.
The application comes at a time when the state agency is in the process of writing rules that would allow Cruise to implement its plans to provide limited but chargeable taxi services across the state. In San Francisco, the new permit will expand the existing Cruise program. It currently allows select members of the public to make autonomous rides between 11 pm and 5 am, and only in the western part of the city, which tends to have less traffic. If the company wins a new permit, it may start charging tolls, which will still take place at night and early morning, rather than in rain or fog. This would mark the launch of the first driverless taxi service in the state.
But in the filing, San Francisco officials express concerns about proposed permit provisions that would allow cruise cars to continue to stop to pick up and drop off passengers in lanes instead of stopping at the curb. Human drivers can be fined if they are caught failing to drive 18 inches or closer to curbs before letting passengers in or out of the car. But in his own statement, Cruise’s attorney argued that the law allows any car to stop in a lane if it is “reasonably necessary,” even if there is no human driver behind the wheel. The Cruise software stops at curbs by default when it’s safe to do so, the company says, but cars sometimes engage in “legal and safe double parking” when that’s the only option.
The city document notes that, “with a few notable exceptions,” Cruz’s vehicles are generally “careful and docile.”
The fire truck incident is a classic “corner case” – a traffic accident so strange or rare that it can be difficult for self-driving vehicle developers to anticipate. Experts say that even as autonomous vehicle software develops, it will keep running into these accidentsWith. Corner or edge cases are one of the reasons why many companies, such as Cruise, hire people to remotely monitor their drone technologyto intervene from afar if something unexpected happens on the road. They also help explain why many in the industry now recognize that no one will ever build a car that can perform on all roads and in all conditions – what people call “Level 5” or “full” self-driving.
However, automakers and software developers spend huge amounts of money to get as close to this ideal as possible. General Motors and Cruise say they will invest $35 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles by 2025. $2 billion for AV this year alone. automaker initially missed the deadline set for himselfafter the company said it would launch a driverless ride-hailing service in San Francisco in 2019. The delay reflects the stasis in the self-driving vehicle space, as is the case with some competitors:UberLyft – sold their self-driving cars and others missed widely publicized goals for the production of unmanned vehicles.
Meanwhile, a group of players with large capital continues to solve this problem. Waymo continues to expand its self-driving car service in Phoenix, although customers must access a “trusted testers” program and some of its vehicles are still operated with safe drivers behind the wheel. In March, the company said it had begun offering driverless rides to San Francisco employees. Startup Aurora turned his attention to trucking. Zoox, owned by Amazon presented his prototype car this weeka mint green toaster on wheels. And Cruise says their purpose-built self-propelled shuttle is called Originwill go into production next year.
But before they go very far, self-driving car developers will need to prove that they can operate safely in cities, especially when ambulances are involved.
Credit: www.wired.com /