Are autonomous cars changing the world, or filling the roads with new types of chaos?

Inappropriate Visit

A driverless GM Cruise car plowed into an active firefighting scene in San Francisco last month, and didn't come to a halt until firefighters smashed its front window, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

It's yet another hair-raising incident that highlights the dangers of letting autonomous vehicles roam free in a crowded urban environment.

City officials are now warning that incidents like this one "could increase very significantly" in the city, according to the report, if Cruise and its competitors like Waymo are allowed to expand their services in the city.

Blocking Lanes

It's already a growing problem. According to a January 25 letter sent to California Public Utilities Commission by the city's transportation authority, there were at least "92 unique incidents reported to the City between May 29, and December 31, 2022," involving Cruise autonomous vehicles.

Other incidents involved Cruise vehicles blocking intersections, bus lanes, and light-rail tracks, according to the Chronicle, as well as several near misses that could've easily ended in a collision.

State regulators are currently considering whether Cruise is allowed to start charging for rides in San Francisco without any geolocation restrictions. As of right now, the General Motors-owned company can charge fares in roughly a third of the city's streets between 10 am and 6 pm.

Competitor Waymo also received permission last year to start testing driverless cars in the Bay Area city and is applying for permits to charge fares as well.

Despite the dozens of incidents, Cruise claims it has a proven safety record after covering "millions of miles in an extremely complex urban environment with zero life-threatening injuries or fatalities," as one spokesperson told the Chronicle.

Officials, however, faced with a growing problem, are worried about future incidents, that not only could disrupt bus and rail services, but pose a real risk to residents as well.

READ MORE: Self-driving cars are causing mayhem on S.F. streets, officials say. Will their expansion be restricted? [San Francisco Chronicle]

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