Proponents say driverless vehicles promise a future with less congestion and pollution, fewer accidents caused by human error, and better mobility for people with disabilities.
But from time to time, one of the cars gets into trouble in a way that casts a little doubt on that bold approach.
So it happened in San Francisco on Tuesday, where a driverless car somehow drove into a city-paved road project and got stuck in wet concrete.
Paul Harvey, a 74-year-old retired contractor who lives in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood, photographed a car with roof-mounted sensors tilted slightly forward, its front wheels buried in freshly poured concrete.
“I thought it was funny,” Mr. Harvey said in an interview on Wednesday. “I was overjoyed because it shows how scary and weird all of this is to me.”
event, before Reported by SFgate.comThis happened just days after California regulators agreed Expand driverless taxi services in San Franciscodespite security concerns local authorities and community workers.
In a 3-to-1 vote last week, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates self-driving cars in the state, allowed Cruise and Waymo to offer paid rides at any time during the day throughout the city .
Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, was offering taxi service in one-third of the city, while Waymo, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, was offering free rides to commuters.
A cruise vehicle was involved in Tuesday’s crash, according to city officials, who said it was unclear how the car fell into the concrete.
Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Public Works, said the paving project on Golden Gate Avenue was marked with construction cones and there were workers with flags at each end of the block.
Ms. Gordon said, “That part of the road has to be repaved at Cruz’s expense.” “Fortunately, no one was injured.”
Ms Gordon said city officials were “expressing concern” about vehicles that had run over fire hoses or “spilled in the middle of the road.” He said the city is willing to work with the companies but “we believe there is still a lot of work to do.”
Drew Pucateri, a Cruise spokesman, confirmed that one of the company’s driverless vehicles “entered a construction area and came to a halt in wet concrete.”
Mr Pusateri said the company had “recovered” the vehicle, although it was not clear whether it was able to break out of the concrete or had to be pulled out. He said the company is in contact with city officials about the incident.
Driverless cars have become a common sight in the tech hub of San Francisco, where they are often seen on test drives, gathering data that is used to improve their autonomous technology.
Although driverless cars have not been blamed for any serious injuries or accidents in San Francisco, they have been involved in a number of shocking incidents.
On Friday night, about 10 cruise control cars stopped working near a music festival in San Francisco’s North Beach, causing a traffic snarl. San Francisco Chroniclewhich the company attributed to “wireless connectivity issues”.
In January, a cruise vehicle entered an area where firefighters were working and did not stop until one firefighter began “banging his hood and smashing the vehicle’s window,” according to city records. Gave. In May, a driverless Waymo car stopped a fire engine while it was backing up at a station.
Driverless-car companies have staunchly defended their safety records, especially when compared to the thousands of people who die each year in car crashes in the United States.
Referring to his autonomous vehicles, Cruise said in a Statement in April “During our first million driverless miles, our AVs were involved in fewer collisions, were a primary contributor to fewer collisions and were involved in fewer serious collisions with a meaningful risk of injury than human drivers in comparable driving environments.”
Paul Leonardi, professor of technology management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said it would be foolish to expect driverless cars to be completely self-driving. Cars, like any new technology that relies on machine learning, need to be operated in real-world conditions in order to improve.
“It needs to experience different use cases so that it can learn, and driving across wet concrete is one of those use cases,” Professor Leonardi said. “We can consider it positive that it was all encased in concrete.”
He added that when driverless cars encounter situations like cones and wet concrete, they “can learn from it and the machines can figure out what to do better next time.”
Yiwen Lu Contributed reporting.