In what must be one of the weirder stories associated with the development of autonomous vehicles, a fleet of self-driving Cruise cars gathered at an intersection in San Francisco earlier this week, parked and blocked traffic for several hours. And just to be clear: no, they shouldn’t have done that.
Some observers may have thought they were witnessing the onset of the robot uprising, but the real reason for the accident was more prosaic: a problem with the platform’s software.
Cruise personnel, owned by General Motors, were called in to take control of some of the errant vehicles, while others were relocated via remote intervention, according to TechCrunch†
A reddit post described on the self-driving slip-up as “snapping a bunch of Cruise cars” on Gough and Fulton Street, about two miles from Fisherman’s Wharf. If you look closely at the accompanying footage, it turns out that at least eight of Cruise’s autonomous vehicles were parked across the street. A Twitter post also captured the scene:
Some @Cruise robotaxis was found to be stuck in SF last night on the corner of Gough St. and Fulton St.
Human operations apparently had to save them. A few more pleats to smooth out. pic.twitter.com/eXDocjVfHU
— Taylor Ogan (@TaylorOgan) June 30, 2022
The bizarre incident comes four months later Cruise began offering autonomous rides to people in San Francisco as part of a pilot robotic taxi service, and just days after it started charging passengers for the rides.
At present, Cruise’s self-driving cars are allowed to operate between 10pm and 6am when the roads are quieter. There is no backup driver behind the wheel, so passengers are really alone in the vehicle. It’s not clear if there were any riders in the cars that got stuck.
Commenting on the incident, Cruise spokesman Drew Pusateri told Digital Trends: “We had an issue earlier this week that caused some of our vehicles to clog. While it was resolved and no passengers were affected, we apologize to anyone who experienced discomfort.”
It’s not yet clear whether authorities will punish Cruise for an obvious traffic violation, or even if the city has a system in place for dealing with autonomous cars that are found to have broken the law.
One thing is clear: the city’s police are still getting used to the idea of stopping a vehicle with no one in it†