It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: If two autonomous cabs meet, nothing works. Two driverless cabs did just that in San Francisco, USA. They met at an intersection and caused a traffic jam there that brought traffic to a standstill for several hours.
Autonomous cabs cause traffic jam at intersection
A curious incident was caused by about half a dozen robotic cabs of the Cruise company, which paralyzed traffic in the US metropolis of San Francisco for several hours last Tuesday. That’s according to the website Techcrunch.
Only after company employees moved out and manually moved the driverless cabs away was traffic able to flow again as planned. Since February 2022, the robot cabs from GM subsidiary Cruise have been allowed to make the streets of the Californian metropolis unsafe in a test run, albeit only at night and between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m..
In Germany, autonomous driving is only permitted with Level 3 systems. The basic requirement is a system design that must enable simple and serious faults to be rectified quickly and safely. A human driver behind the wheel is mandatory. Mercedes-Benz is considered a pioneer for autonomous driving in this country with DRIVE PILOT.
Cruise robotic cabs are rallying
According to a company spokesperson, a technical error was the reason for the clustering of robotaxis that caused “some of our vehicles to bunch up”. Passengers were not affected, however, Cruise said.
The affected vehicles were moved from the intersection with a combination of remote access and manual intervention by company employees, it said.
Meanwhile, the overnight encounter of autonomous cabs made big waves on Reddit. In one thread, eyewitnesses shared images of the e-car gathering, describing the situation as surreal. “They are gathering to kill us,” wrote one person.
Even the street sweeper had been unable to work on the entire block, which is fined $76 per car in San Francisco. Cruise has only been allowed to use the converted Chevrolet Bolt models commercially as autonomous cabs for about a week.
In April 2022, a similarly curious situation occurred during a previous test run. Here, SFPD police officers stopped a driverless Cruise robotaxi at a red light and were visibly irritated that there was no driver behind the wheel.
When the light turned green, the autonomous cab simply drove away from the officers and only came to a stop a few moments later. The reason for the stop was apparently a malfunction of the headlights.
However, this incident and the current blockade of autonomous cabs are likely to further complicate the path toward daytime approval for Cruise. Tesla, for example, only offers an Autopilot system in the U.S. that mandates a human behind the wheel. However, due to an increasing number of accidents, the automaker has also had to answer to the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration.