Separately this week, the autonomous vehicle companies Cruise and Waymo promoted the idea that people make poor drivers and that their technology are essential to making roadways safer.
The actions—full-page newspaper advertisements from Cruise and a blog post from Waymo—come as California regulators delay, for a second time, issuing expanded permits that would allow both companies to charge for fully autonomous robotaxi rides across San Francisco round-the-clock.
While locals, advocates for safe streets, and city agencies like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA) complain that malfunctioning robotaxis add to the city’s congestion problem and have hampered traffic, public transit, and emergency responders, the offensive tactics that portray human drivers as the real problem are an attempt to sway public opinion in favor of autonomous vehicle services.
The city now offers only a few robotaxi services through both businesses. A hearing to authorize permit expansions was set by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for Thursday, but the hearing was postponed to August 10. The government just stated that the issues needed “further review,” without specifying why.
In an effort to gain support before the vote the next month, Cruise on Thursday launched full-page ads with the tagline, “Humans are terrible drivers,” in the Sacramento Bee, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Los Angeles Times.
The advertisement states, “You might be a good driver, but many of us aren’t.” “In the US, people cause millions of accidents every year. The purpose of autonomous cruise cars is to save lives.
Similar sentiments were expressed in a blog post posted by Waymo on Tuesday. The Alphabet-owned business examined the average speeds of cars in San Francisco and Phoenix over a 10-day period using its robotaxis, and discovered that 47% of the time, vehicles are moving at a high pace. Many vehicles exceeded the legal speed limit by more than 25 miles per hour.
According to data from the National Highway road Safety Administration, speeding was responsible for 13% of all injuries and a third of all road fatalities in the United States in 2020.
According to the site, “Waymo Driver is designed to follow applicable speed limits, unlike humans.” “Our driver is also able to gauge the speed of other moving cars. By doing this, the Waymo Driver is better able to anticipate and adapt to the movements of the nearby vehicles.
Waymo and Cruise both bragged about their own safety records. When compared to human drivers in a similar driving environment, Cruise claimed that its cars were directly responsible for 92% fewer collisions and 54% fewer collisions overall.
As stated by Drew Pusateri, a Cruise spokeswoman, “Local leaders and regulators need to safely explore every option possible to reverse the horrifying status quo on our roads, instead of blocking a critical technology with a strong safety record.”
The public deserves to be aware that there is a promising developing technology that could assist enhance road safety because pedestrian deaths in the United States last year reached their highest levels in 40 years and were frequently caused by avoidable human mistake.
Although there is some validity to the claims that humans make risky driving decisions, robotaxis and autonomous vehicles are not always the answer.
In fact, many proponents of safe streets contend that rather than Big Tech solutions, governments should promote micromobility and public transit.
Although there haven’t been any fatal human accidents using Cruise or Waymo vehicles yet, the technologies remain far from ideal. There have been other incidents of Cruise AVs breaking down and abruptly halting in the midst of intersections or roadways, and last month, a Waymo vehicle struck and killed a dog in the city, even though it seemed like the disaster was unavoidable.
The reason for the CPUC’s second hearing postponement was kept a secret from TechCrunch. When it published the draft resolutions in May, the agency appeared almost ready to approve the expansion of the areas of the two corporations.
With regard to San Francisco, Cruise is now permitted to provide both a paid passenger service in select areas of the city from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and a free passenger service all day long, both with and without a safety driver present.
Fully autonomous robotaxis for the entire city are only available to employees as of late April.
At any time of day, Waymo runs a fee-based service across San Francisco, but a human safety driver must always be in the car.
The business also runs a completely autonomous service around the city, but it’s still free.
In some areas of Los Angeles as well as in and around Mountain View, Waymo further offers a free service with a safety driver on duty.