In San Francisco, the fleet of white and red Cruise robotaxis is the talk of the town. Several incidents are reported to the authorities or more simply on social networks. The latest is an accident with a fire service vehicle. The autonomous vehicle passed the green light, but the truck had priority with its sirens and flashing lights. The two vehicles collided, without too much seriousness either for the taxi passenger or for the firefighters.
If such accidents occur with humans behind the wheel, on the other hand, we do not tolerate any fault on the part of machines which are supposed to be perfect and not to have our human failings. Here, the vehicle visibly ignored the sirens which require any driver to give way and facilitate the passage of intervention vehicles. A first analysis shows that this case is more complicated than it seems.
Cruise agrees to cut robotaxi fleet in half following San Francisco crashes
General Motors’ Cruise autonomous vehicle unit has agreed to cut its fleet of San Francisco robotaxis in half as authorities investigate two recent crashes in the city. @KPIXtv https://t.co/3oro8HgBkg pic.twitter.com/uhQyo9ngCd
— Betty Yu (@bett_yu) August 20, 2023
It is typically these “non-trivial” cases that pose concerns in the development of autonomous vehicles. Another case happened a few days ago with a track that was blocked by construction studs. A robotaxi arrived and “stumbled” at the intersection. Stopped in the middle of the crossroads, he seemed not to know what to do. Worse, two other Cruise vehicles arrived and also began to stutter. It took the intervention of an operator to regain control and clear the area. Ubuesque.
Another case filmed by a driver is that of a robotaxi driving on a three-lane street. He changes lanes to find himself in the middle lane (while cutting the NDLA road) then brakes in the middle of the crossroads by turning left when the middle lane does not allow him. The driver following him managed to avoid him. But again, it looks bad for machines, even if humans make the same mistake every day.
Cruise has had some tough days lately. On August 12, the vehicles mysteriously put on hazard warning lights and came to a standstill on the road. Revolt of the machines? Surprise strike? Nay! In fact, the mobile network was visibly saturated by a festival in the area. The vehicles could no longer communicate and therefore moved to safety. Operators could no longer remotely regain control of vehicles.
😬 @Cruise self-driving operations had a complete meltdown earlier in North Beach. We overheard on the scanner that all Cruise vehicle agents were tied up at the time (not literally) and so North Beach was going to get a delayed response. But wow, WTF! pic.twitter.com/D89xrSxAdu
— FriscoLive415 (@friscolive415) August 12, 2023
GM Cruise has the answer to everything, but…
For 3 years in San Francisco, Cruise (which belongs to General Motors) has been regularly confronted with problems. Each time an in-depth analysis is carried out to improve the robot software. Almost every time, Cruise has a good reason and communicates about the incidents. Regarding the network failure, it is therefore a festival that took the bandwidth and made the vehicles inoperative.
Other times, it is temporary configurations of the streets, works, which hinder the evolution of the cars as with this crossroads and its plots of construction sites. Other builders have already experienced bugs with works. As for the accident with the fire truck, the situation was, it is true, special. The vehicle of course has the sirens, but could not see the vehicle until it was in the intersection (it is buildings on this level and perpendicular streets). The other concern is that the truck was driving in the wrong direction to be able to pass the red light more easily.
The robotaxi therefore found itself in a complicated situation. And you ? Do you think you would have done better? Every year, thousands of accidents happen due to human error. Every year, thousands of people are disoriented by works, brake in the middle of a crossroads, leave at the last minute, etc. But, as they are robots, we necessarily expect perfection and we do not design the slightest bug.
Spotted: Three robo cars stalled in the same intersection in San Francisco. This time, it’s @Cruise cars jamming the intersection of Valencia/21 St. in the Mission.
Parking enforcement guy banging on windows trying to communicate w/ Cruise. Traffic backed up for blocks. pic.twitter.com/ShcYYv8XEl
— Dustin Gardiner (@dustingardiner) August 20, 2023
It must be said that the acceptance of these autonomous vehicles is at this price. However, every day we use autonomous vehicles, elevators, metros, etc. The most advanced are undoubtedly the planes which fly 99% of the time in total autonomy. But, there are fewer building plots in the sky, it’s true.
Just recently, a mayor had lines painted in all directions in his village to slow drivers down. Imagine an autonomous vehicle that arrives here.
😮 This new road layout created surprise, even misunderstandinghttps://t.co/Gdd6STbXnt
— Western Mail (@courrierouest) July 21, 2023