SAN FRACISCO, CALIFORNIA —
Various reactions emerged following the permission of driverless cars to operate or carry out trials on the roads in California. Some residents welcomed it, and others opposed it. Some experts say it will take time for society to accept it, and for technology experts to improve it.
In California, there are more than 40 companies that have permits to test driverless cars. However, only two companies, GM’s Cruise and Google’s Waymo, have received the green light to operate throughout San Francisco, expand their fleets, and charge customers tariffs. They also operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
Katherine Allen, 37, a lawyer in San Francisco and Waymo customer, welcomed it with joy.
“I always feel safer in that car than in a traditional car. This is a bit strange, I think, because feelings of insecurity usually stem from the absence of humans to engage in direct communication. But the truth is that this car always drives within the speed limit, very conservatively, and sometimes even excessively. “This car also provides a lot of space for cyclists on the road,” he commented.
A similar opinion was expressed by Isaac Smith, 50, a Cruise customer. This man who is involved in the film making business actually said that this kind of service is suitable for those who are busy and don’t want to be disturbed.
“It was very quiet in the car. No chatter. No weird radio stations playing, whatever random music the driver likes to listen to. I really looked into doing some work while in the car.”
However, not everyone agrees. A number of residents complained about traffic chaos caused by cars without drivers. The San Francisco fire department documented 55 incidents involving such vehicles.
Solan Megerssa, a passenger in the car minus the driver, felt annoyed. “While at a strange intersection, the car stopped in the middle of the road. In fact, there were several cars around. “Obviously I didn’t know what to do, and the car just stopped,” he explained.
An August 25, 2023 screenshot from AFP TV shows a Waymo car in San Francisco. San Francisco residents are starting to use driverless commercial vehicles to get around. (Photos from various sources/AFP)
Just a day after the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission approved the vehicle service expansion, social media was abuzz with videos of Cruise vehicles suddenly stopping and causing traffic jams during the city’s Outside Lands Music Festival.
Cruise apologized via X, formerly known as Twitter, saying the large festival created wireless bandwidth constraints, causing delays in connectivity to their vehicles.
Taxi drivers also complained, including Jessie Reyes, who has been doing this job for a dozen years. “Uber and Lyft have hurt our business. We don’t need additional competition,” he lamented.
Ahmed Banafa, a technology analyst at San Jose State University, isn’t concerned about the chaos. He instead sees it as an opportunity for his city to develop a driverless vehicle industry.
“All of these are glitches and bugs in the algorithm. It’s good that the car stopped, didn’t speed, and didn’t take any other action. The problem is that if it’s not addressed in San Francisco, it will definitely be addressed in another city. This is an opportunity we don’t want to waste,” he said.(ab/uh)