California’s Robotaxi Experiment Just Hit A Serious Snag

There are clearly still some major shortcomings in the emerging technology. California’s Robotaxi Experiment Just Hit A Serious Snag Shutterstock

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Over the past few months, we’ve been providing updates in the push to allow autonomous vehicles to operate as taxis within the city of San Francisco.

That effort seemed to pay off recently when California’s Department of Motor Vehicles gave Cruise permission to dispatch its driverless vehicles citywide around the clock.

But a pair of recent incidents threw a monkey wrench into the plan.

“Effective immediately”

An individual was injured in August when one of Cruise’s robotaxis hit a fire truck. That got some attention, but it wasn’t enough to derail the program entirely.

Then, earlier this month a pedestrian was hit by a car, propelling her body into the path of an autonomous taxi that then dragged it about 20 feet before finally coming to a stop.

The victim was found trapped underneath the Cruise taxi. Her leg appeared to be pinned beneath a tire and she was reportedly screaming for help.

Paramedics arrived on the scene and she was listed in critical condition.
After an investigation into the incident, the DMV confirmed that Cruise’s permit had been suspended “effective immediately” and its robotaxis could no longer operate or test on public roadways.

Where things stand now

So will we ever have the safe and convenient autonomous vehicles that Elon Musk and others have long promised? Maybe — but there’s still a lot of work to do.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a probe of the Cruise incident found that its robotaxis “are not safe for the public’s operation” and pose “an unreasonable risk to the public.”

But Cruise does have the option to reapply for permission to operate in the future and insisted that “safety is at the core of everything we do,” vowing to “analyze incidents so we can identify opportunities to further enhance safety."

Chris Agee
Chris Agee October 26th, 2023
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