From wow to new normal: Driverless cars cruise the streets of San Francisco



Waymo tester Katherine Allen was also sensitive to the social aspect.

“The advantage that they have over human drivers is that they’re cautious, which can be really annoying to other drivers,” she said.

But “there’s not going to be any road rage” from a robotaxi, she added as her car inched slowly through daytime traffic.

Taking on her role as a tester, Allen gave the emergency “pull over” button a go and the vehicle veered safely to the side as intended.

Resuming the journey proved difficult. Human drivers showed no mercy for a robot wanting to get back in the driving lane.

So far, most incidents have involved vehicles stopped on the road.

But local authorities have nevertheless asked Cruise to halve its fleet in San Francisco (to 50 cars active during the day and 150 at night), while it investigates two collisions that occurred last week, including one with a fire truck.

Even in this tech-crazed city, robotaxis are a divisive issue.

Environmental activists criticize them for perpetuating the reign of the private car, while associations for the disabled say they are not sufficiently adapted to their needs, and trade unions fear job losses.

But just as many see driverless cars as beneficial to these causes.

And the excitement is there: Waymo says it has more than 100,000 people on its waiting list.

Allen, who until now had enjoyed her rides for free, will have to pay in the future. Will she continue to use Waymo or go with a human driven Uber?

“It will depend on price and time … Autonomous cars are almost always slower,” she said.


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