Robotaxi Services Stall Streets, Raising Questions about Regulatory Approval


One day after California regulators approved a contentious plan allowing San Francisco’s competing robotaxi services to operate 24/7, a number of the autonomous vehicles ground traffic to a halt in one part of the city, prompting calls for the state to reconsider its choice. 

In San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood on Friday night, up to 10 driverless Cruise taxis all become immobilized at the same moment, causing traffic to back up as the cars obstruct other vehicles.

One social media user who posted about the event on X, then known as Twitter, said that Cruise’s “self-driving operations had a complete meltdown” and displayed video of the North Beach traffic bottleneck. Upon being questioned, Cruise acknowledged that “a large festival posted wireless bandwidth constraints, causing delayed connectivity to our vehicles.”

In a letter to people impacted, the firm expressed regret and said, “We are actively investigating and working on solutions to prevent this from happening again.”

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Safety Concerns Amplified

However, opponents of using San Francisco as a testing ground for autonomous vehicles cited the incident as evidence of the dangers associated with their increased use, particularly in light of instances in which they have blocked emergency vehicles such as ambulances and firetrucks. 

According to The Chronicle, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin stated on Sunday that “government agencies would ask the city attorney to file a petition requesting that the city of San Francisco be designated as a test site for autonomous vehicles.”

It became the first major U.S. city with two fleets of driverless cars competing for passengers against human-operated taxi and ride-sharing services after California’s Public Utilities Commission voted 3-1 to allow rival robotaxi services Cruise and Waymo to operate 24/7 in San Francisco.

At the discussion on Thursday, several city officials and citizens made it apparent that they are not yet on board with the robotaxis despite growing dissatisfaction with the cars that Cruise and Waymo have been testing in the city for the past year under limited circumstances.

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