Behold: a car that only works when it's connected to the internet.
Talk about poor timing.
As CBS reported this weekend, the self-driving carmaker Cruise caused a major traffic jam on Friday in San Francisco when ten of its controversial robotaxis simply shut down after losing their wireless signals.
Which, of course, would never be a great look. But considering that a large number of San Franciscans are still very much pissed about the fact that California regulators just granted autonomous vehicle firms permission to expand their services throughout the city, this weekend was a particularly inopportune moment for Cruise's cars to go "immobolus" on the city.
Hi @friscolive415 - A large festival posed wireless bandwidth constraints causing delayed connectivity to our vehicles. We are actively investigating and working on solutions to prevent this from happening again. We apologize to those who were impacted.
— cruise (@Cruise) August 12, 2023
Videos of the traffic-stopping event showed Cruise cars paralyzed on San Francisco streets, blinkers on, while lines of human-driven vehicles sat in stand-still traffic behind them.
"Self-driving operations had a complete meltdown earlier in North Beach," reads the caption of a Friday night Twitter-formerly-X post from a user who took several videos of the Cruise-induced slow-down, adding a "wow, WTF!" for good measure.
Later, in response to the post, Cruise blamed the slow-down on a large music festival that was taking place in the area, arguing that the festival vacuumed up all of the city's bandwidth.
"A large festival posed wireless bandwidth constraints causing delayed connectivity to our vehicles," Cruise wrote in its response. "We are actively investigating and working on solutions to prevent this from happening again. We apologize to those who were impacted."
All fine and good, but if you're about to deploy your driverless cars in a city that already doesn't really trust you, you'd probably do better to double-check your wireless connection before Janelle Monae and Kendrick Lamar take up too much precious city bandwidth at Outside Lands. Worse, the entire idea of a car that only works when connected to the internet is just bizarre. What about if there's a natural disaster? A service outage? A need to use the vehicle in a rural area?
And as one concerned San Franciscan pointed out to CBS, traffic slow-downs aren't just annoying. They can also be dangerous.
"If there's an emergency, the emergency vehicle cannot come down through," Jeffrey Bilbrey, a resident of San Francisco's North Beach area, told the news outlet. "They can't roll through those cars."
"We don't need them here," he added. "We did fine before they came here."
Look: missteps happen. But if Cruise and other autonomous carmakers are looking to build trust with residents of the locales they're servicing? This is a hell of a place to start.
More on self-driving cars: People in San Francisco Are Already Having Sex in Self-Driving Taxis
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