By: Nick Gambino
Driverless cars have been operating in San Francisco for several years now, but as of just a couple weeks ago, the autonomous vehicles are now able to operate as taxis 24/7.
The California Public Utilities Commission voted 3 to 1 to expand the driverless car program so that they can now pick up passengers and charge a fare any time of the day or night. So the next time you’re in San Francisco and you order a taxi, don’t freak out when it pulls up and there’s no human or even anything alive at the wheel.
The two types of self-driving cars on the road in the northern California city are those operated by Waymo (an Alphabet company) and Cruise (a GM company).
Having these vehicles operating on the streets in any capacity around pedestrians and other cars driven by alive people has caused a bit of a stir. Now with the expansion of the program and hundreds of these autonomous cars navigating the roads, it’s causing even more controversy.
It doesn’t help that just last week a fleet of Cruise vehicles got stuck and created a traffic jam for about 15 minutes. To be clear, they weren’t stuck in traffic, they were creating the traffic by simply not moving.
If this were to become a regular occurrence in metropolitan cities where traffic is already a major concern, these tech companies are gonna have a real problem on their hands. In this case, it seems the traffic jam was caused by a nearby concert in the North Beach neighborhood.
“A large festival posed wireless bandwidth constraints causing delayed connectivity to our vehicles,” Cruise said in a tweet (it’ll always be a tweet to me). “We are actively investigating and working on solutions to prevent this from happening again.”
It’s not just about causing heavier traffic. According to CNN, in 2023 alone, the SF Fire Department has 55 incidents recorded of driverless cars getting in the way of emergency responders. This is a much more serious problem and “connectivity issues” just won’t do. Clearly, they should have worked out these kinks before expanding the program.
Like this story? Check out some of our recent articles: