SAN FRANCISCO - As sophisticated as driverless cars are, a group called the Safe Street Rebels simply place traffic cones on their hoods that stops them cold.
"They're unreliable and we're more trying to demonstrate something, you know, as a city and as city residents we don't consent to this. We don't consent to having our city of 800,000 people be considered as human guinea pigs," said ‘Cone’, a Safe Street Rebel. Cruise says the cone videos come from a local group that opposes cars generally in favor of transit and bikes.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles, which allows driverless cars, would only send a statement saying it "is aware of these incidents occurring and we would refer you to local law enforcement for comment." Cruise says its driverless cars have now gone 3 million miles without a single fatality or life-threatening injury.
Autonomous car expert, Billy Riggs, professor of transportation innovation at University of San Francisco, says data does show driverless cars generally performing better than human drivers with this provision: "We still see issues where, just like a human driver, they encounter situations, one in a million situations that they haven't encountered before," said Professor Riggs.
Firehouses have presented such a situation. "We've had two vehicles actually stop dead in front of fire engines trying to get out the door of fire stations to go on emergency calls," said San Francisco Fire Department Chief Jeanine Nicholson.
The DMV and the California Public Utilities Commission think well enough of these autonomous vehicles to allow them to operate on the streets of San Francisco. But, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency doesn't like the idea of them becoming disabled, whether by their own devices, or somebody else disabling them, and that is of great concern.
The CPUC has yet to respond to our interview requests. They will decide on Thursday if it will allow larger driverless car fleets to provide 24/7 ride service.