Frozen Driverless Cars are Delaying San Francisco’s Buses

There’s a new problem with driverless test vehicles. Wired obtain records from San Francisco’s public transit agency for about six months showing that driverless cars testing on city streets “resulted in at least 83 minutes of direct delays” for the city’s “Muni” buses. And “that data likely doesn’t reflect the true scale of the problem,” Wired argues, since “a single delay can slow other lines, worsening the blow.”

Some examples from the article:
– On January 22, a Cruise at a green light wouldn’t budge, preventing a San Francisco light-rail train from moving for nearly 16 minutes. As the train driver headed out to investigate, a passenger said, “Nobody in there, huh?” Over a span of 10 minutes, the driver chatted with passengers, checked with managers over the radio, and walked around the motionless Cruise vehicle. Someone wearing a reflective vest and holding a tablet eventually got into the Cruise and drove it away…

– On September 30, 2022, a Muni light-rail train, or streetcar, that was full of celebrating baseball fans began driving from a station into an intersection. An empty Cruise robotaxi at a stop sign to the train’s left then also drove forward… It was seven minutes before the driverless car cleared the track and the train started again, drawing cheers from riders…

– On January 21, a Muni bus with a couple of riders aboard had lost six minutes because a Cruise was lingering across an intersection crowded by police and fire vehicles, video shows. While other cars maneuvered past, the Cruise did not. “I have one of those autonomous cars in front of me, so I’m stuck,” the driver radioed. “I could make this turn on Sixth Avenue if this car wasn’t in front of me….”

– In November, one light-rail passenger called it quits after waiting nearly six minutes for a Cruise driverless car in front to move. “There’s nobody in the car,” the driver told the person as they stepped off the train.

– [After a white Waymo SUV stopped in the middle of the road, Waymo spokesperson Sandy Karp] says one of the company’s roadside assistance crews arrived within 11 minutes of being dispatched to drive the SUV, clearing the blockage about 15 minutes after it began. Karp declined to elaborate on why the remote responder’s guidance failed but said engineers have since introduced an unspecified change that allows addressing “these rare situations faster and with more flexibility….”

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