Even for city officials, it can be difficult to obtain information on incidents or collisions. On June 28, cruise vehicles gathered at a busy intersection in San Francisco and blocked traffic for hours until humans removed them. Tumlin said he learned of that incident from 911 calls, the city’s emergency management department and media reports.
“Those vehicles blocked traffic on one of our most important arteries, and after a while we realized it was a systemic problem in much of the city,” Tumlin said. An alleged cruise whistleblower told regulators that such clusters happen with regularity.
In April, a city police officer pulled over a cruise vehicle for traveling at night without headlights. The vehicle pulled itself away from the officer before the traffic stop was completed.
Later that month, a cruise vehicle blocked the path of a San Francisco Fire Department truck en route to the fire, causing injuries and damage to property.
Tumlin worries that the incident is not an isolated incident, but a component of an ongoing problem.
“The fire department and emergency response will tell you that seconds are critical in getting trucks and ambulances in for emergencies, and we are seeing a steady decline in response times,” he said.
Because Tamlin can’t get data from companies operating in his jurisdiction, he can’t pin down an exact reason for those slow response times. This could be overall ride-hailing services, an influx of autonomous vehicles or an increase in delivery services. The result is the same.
“But we know it’s happening,” he said, “and we could see a dramatic increase in all kinds of pickup and drop-off activity in traffic lanes.”
In some respects, the arrival of AVs in cities is a reminder of how ride-hailing companies began operations more than a decade ago, often operating without regulatory approval. But it differs in other ways, including the absence of prominent entrepreneurs like Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick.
“There is no Travis Kalanick in the autonomous-vehicle industry, and we are grateful for that,” Tumlin said. “We recognize that AV companies are trying to act in good faith, and we look forward to building a strong trust relationship so that we can be partners, and help the city advance technology and keep markets flourishing.” can.”