Cruise’s Robot Car Outages Are Jamming Up San Francisco

Around midnight On June 28, Calvin Hu was driving with his girlfriend near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park when he stopped at an intersection behind two white and orange autonomous Chevrolet Bolts operated by Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors. Another stopped to his right in the adjacent lane. The traffic light turned green but the cars, which circulate in the city without a driver, did not move.

As Hu prepared to back off to make room to surround the frozen vehicles, he says, he noticed that several more cruise vehicles had stopped in the lanes behind him. Hu, another driver and a parachute bus were trapped in a robotaxi sandwich.

After a few minutes of perplexed waiting, Hu says, he resorted to driving down the sidewalks of the street median to escape. When he returned on foot a few minutes later to see if the situation had been resolved, the Cruise vehicles had not moved. A person who appeared to work for the company had parked at the intersection, Hu says, as if to indicate the street was closed, and was trying to direct traffic away from cars without stationary driving. Hu estimates that the robot car blockade, which had not been reported earlier, lasted at least 15 minutes.

The cruise vehicles that caught Hu were not the only autonomous cars that slowed traffic in San Francisco that night. Internal messages seen by WIRED show that about 60 vehicles were shut down throughout the city, over a 90-minute period, after losing contact with a cruise server. Up to 20 cars, some of them stopped at pedestrian crossings, created a traffic jam in the city center, in an incident first reported by the Examiner of San Francisco and is detailed in the photos posted on Reddit. In a written statement, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which oversees autonomous vehicle operations in the state, said it was aware of the incident and would meet with Cruise to “gather additional information.”

The June 28 interruption was not Cruise’s first. On the evening of May 18, the company lost contact with its entire fleet for 20 minutes while their cars were parked on the street, according to internal documentation consulted by WIRED. Company personnel could not see where the vehicles were located nor could they communicate with the motorists inside. Worst of all, the company was unable to access its reservation system, which allows remote operators to safely drive parked vehicles on the side of the road.

A letter sent anonymously by a Cruise employee to the California Public Services Commission that month, which was reviewed by WIRED, alleged that the company is losing contact with its driverless vehicles “on a regular basis.” blocking traffic and possibly hindering emergency vehicles. Sometimes vehicles can only be recovered with a crane, the letter said. Images and videos posted on social media at May i June show Cruise vehicles stopped on San Francisco’s seemingly inexplicable traffic lanes as the city’s human pedestrians and motorcyclists navigated around it.

Cruise spokeswoman Tiffany Testo provided a written statement in which she said the company’s vehicles are scheduled to stop and turn on their hazard lights when they encounter a technical problem or meet road conditions they cannot. handle. “We are working to minimize the frequency with which this happens, but it is and will continue to be an aspect of our overall security operations,” the statement said. Testo did not answer specific questions about multiple incidents in which cruise vehicles stopped in traffic.

The interruptions come at a vital time for Cruise, which is accelerating its autonomous vehicle program on the tricky streets of San Francisco as it competes with well-capitalized rivals such as Google’s sister company Waymo, Aurora and Zoox, owned by Amazon. In the spring, General Motors bought the $ 2.1 billion stake in the SoftBank Vision Fund on Cruise and invested $ 1.35 billion more in the autonomous driving unit. Just over two weeks after the May disruption that froze the entire Cruise fleet, the CPUC approved Cruise’s permit to charge money for Uber-like hail trips, paving the way for a full-service commercial service. robotaxi that could help the company start recovering billions. has devoted itself to building its technology.

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