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'Incompetent' Autonomous Cars Are Still A Nightmare For San Francisco: Report

The driverless cars going through training on the streets of San Francisco are still disrupting the lives of people in the city.

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Image: Paul Sancya (AP)

In 2022, the California Public Utilities Commission officially approved the use of autonomous vehicles from Cruise and Waymo to be used on the roads of San Francisco; the companies received the go-ahead to publicly beta test, more or less. And while that approval was considered a game changer at the time, a year later things aren’t looking as bright. SFGATE reports that the driverless cars training in the city and surrounding areas of San Francisco are proving to be more of a problem than anyone expected.

Cruise and Waymo are still locked in an autonomous driving arms race to see who can perfect the tech before the other. It’s tech oneupmanship. Waymo applied for a permit that would allow its cars to carry passengers in the city at the end of 2022; in response, Cruise applied to see if it would be allowed to expand its fleet to 100 cars across the city. Both applications are still pending for review.


While the companies are using the streets for testing, the public is bearing the brunt of weird, or sometimes outright dangerous behavior from the cars. From getting in the way of emergency responders, clogging up streets and not moving, to getting into hit and run accidents. And there are often close calls, according to the SFGate report:

“It’s a little frustrating and just creepy to, you know, just see these cars with nobody in them,” said Debi Durst, a longtime Sunset District resident. Just two months ago, she saw one of them jerk to a halt near Herbert Hoover Middle School right as students were pouring out of class.


City residents have also bombarded emergency officials with 911 calls after witnessing erratic driving from these cars. In a report from the beginning of the year, the SFMTA (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) documented 92 incidents involving autonomous cars from May through December 2022.

And while both Waymo and Cruise have assured everyone that a driver is ready at all times to take over in the case of an emergency, that doesn’t seem to be helping, and city officials, mainly the SFMTA, aren’t sold that the tech is ready yet.

All of it will ultimately come down to the California Public Utilities Commission, but, as SFGATE points out, the commission seems ready to give both Waymo and Cruise “full access.” SFGATE’s full story is worth a read here.