Citizens have spotted autonomous vehicles owned by Google-owned Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise driving around San Francisco. With incidents ranging from traffic jams to accidents reported, autonomous cars are being tested on roads without safety drivers. Training is being given to vehicles on how to navigate real-world situations, such as sharing the roads with unpredictable human activity.
Surprise and amazement are caused among onlookers by these empty autonomous cars, covered in cameras and sensors. Concern is shown by some residents about the lack of control they have over autonomous car testing in their city. Safer and more affordable green transportation options are being developed by Waymo and Cruise through new technology.
The sight of an empty car makes people uncomfortable, as the vehicle moves on its own. San Franciscans are used to being beta-test subjects for Big Tech, as they live adjacent to Silicon Valley. Offering rides to people in more places, 24 hours a day, is being eyed by driverless vehicle companies.
Coming to a full stop at stop signs and hitting the brakes at the slightest hint of a problem, Cruise and Waymo’s empty cars move like diligent, if nervous, student drivers, never exceeding the speed limit. Since 2018, the cars have been tested and are now more frequently allowed to drive around on roads during the daytime.
San Francisco, one of several cities, is witnessing vehicle testing. Few residents are concerned about what the technology could mean for the city. Technology companies in Silicon Valley see San Francisco as a place where they can find a higher tolerance for their technology testing.
The fog-induced traffic jam is acknowledged by Waymo, as its cars briefly pulled over for safety. With companies given the go-ahead by state agencies, including the California Department of Motor Vehicles, San Francisco is limited in how much it can regulate autonomous car testing programs.
The launch of Uber, ride-hailing, Airbnb short-term rentals, dockless electric scooters, and sidewalk robots has already been experienced in San Francisco. Environmental issues could be addressed by using autonomous cars, as they provide safer and more affordable transportation options.
The current arrangement of being beta-test subjects for Big Tech is being questioned by some residents. The city is concerned about how much control it has over the testing programs, as there was no vote to allow the cars to be tested. Some residents believe the autonomous cars are as good as or better than human drivers, despite glitches.