Autonomous murderbots still going great

Self-driving cars are causing mayhem on SF streets

In letters to the California Public Utilities Commission seeking to curtail their expansion, the city's Municipal Transportation Agency and County Transportation Authority documented at least 92 incidents between late May and December where self-driving taxis created mayhem on city streets -- disrupting traffic, Muni transit and emergency responders.

Jan 22: Firefighters were battling a two-alarm apartment blaze on the corner of Hayes and Divisadero streets when a driverless Cruise car entered the active firefighting scene and nearly ran over fire hoses on the street. Firefighters at the scene stood in front of the car to try to get it to stop, but the autonomous vehicle came to a halt only after one of them smashed the Cruise car's front window amid the chaotic effort to put out a fire that displaced 25 people.

Sep 22: A Cruise vehicle entered a bus lane, stopped next to a Muni bus near the intersection of O'Farrell and Franklin streets and blocked traffic for 21 minutes.

Sep 23: Five Cruise autonomous vehicles blocked southbound Mission Street just north of the intersection with 29th Street. One of the cars stopped on the central double yellow line, partially blocking an opposing lane of traffic. Traffic was stopped for at least 13 minutes.

Sep 30: A Cruise vehicle came to a stop after nearly colliding with a Muni N-Judah train at the intersection of Carl and Cole streets. The Cruise car blocked light-rail tracks in both directions for close to seven minutes.

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10 Responses:

  1. Eric TF Bat says:

    "In theory, there isn't any difference between theory and practice.  In practice, however, there is."

    It's like the people who are in love with the theory of autonomous cars are just out there striving as hard as they can to find all the ways that their theory fails to match reality.  Gods help them if they ever try expanding into countries (hell, even into counties and states) that don't have exactly the road markings and signage they've based their algorithms on.  I give them fifteen minutes in Indonesia before every one of their cars explodes from existential angst.

    • cheide says:

      I can't help but wonder how well they'd do in winter up here, where after a good snowfall the road boundaries are often...ambiguous, and not everywhere gets plowed to the same degree.

      • Eric TF Bat says:

        You know who they should be talking to?  Driving instructors.  When I had my professional lessons to prepare for my test, the instructor took me through the weirdest and most inconsistent parts of the city and made sure I knew how to deal with them, because sure enough the tester took me there too.  The city I was living in, Canberra, has very regular road markings, a legacy of an unusually effective Federal government organisation that used to oversea the city before they imposed self government on us and let the usual real estate grifters take control.  There were only a couple of roads with ambiguous markings and strange exceptions to the rules, and the instructor (and then the tester) made sure I knew all of them.

        Some cities are all exceptions, of course.  But I get the strangest feeling whoever is training the AIs that run these murderbots did not have the benefit of a driving instructor who knew what evil lurks in the roads of men.

        • Oh yes. In 1976 I was in high school driver's ed, which was a thing that existed back then, when Berkeley had a once in a century snow day. I still remember the look of glee on the instructor's face when he announced we would be driving in the hills that day. He made each of us execute a three-point turn on a steep snow-covered dead end.

          At least it wasn't also stick-shift day.

          As for exceptions, there's a block in Boston that you can only get to by backing up, because it's one-way and has a turn too tight for modern vehicles. How many murderbots will be able to handle that?

  2. Mozai says:

    I wish they'd stop doing testing in the production environment.

    I wonder what would happen if they spent their not-your-steering-wheel R&D budget on rejigging city design so we'd be less dependent on cars?  A null driving route will cause noticeably less murders.

    • thielges says:

      There’s just too many people addicted to the apparent convenience of door to door transportation provided by a personal AV sitting in the driveway.

      Asking the vast autoroyalty to rub shoulders with the public on transit?   There might be a poor person on that trolley.   The horror.  

      • me says:

        Obviously a fully walkable city or widespread and efficient public transit is the best but mostly unachievable medium term outcome.
        So of the realistic possibilities, isn't a shared AV taxi more preferable to exclusively personal cars and 20% of your city dedicated to parking?

        • thielges says:

          Well then you have to wait for that shared car to arrive and endure the detours to pick up and drop off the passengers you share the car with.  What a massive inconvenience!  And you’re still at risk of sharing the car with a poor person.  

          I need my own sealed personal vehicle ready to transport me direct to my destination dammit!   And it must be appointed with rich Corinthian leather.  

  3. saxmaniac says:

    I am the last person in the world to approve of wanton destruction, but I’m shocked SHOCKED that nobody’s made a crowdsourced effort to slice the tires of these things. Parked safely of course.

    I’d download that app.

  4. Robert Atkins says:

    I assume politics prevents the companies that put these things on the streets being charged punitive restitution for the mayhem they create?

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