UPDATED 21:04 EST / OCTOBER 14 2021

EMERGING TECH

Waymo self-driving cars keep flocking to a San Francisco dead-end street

Self-driving cars operated by Waymo LLC, the autonomous vehicle division of Alphabet Inc., have been flocking to a dead-end street in San Francisco and no one seemingly knows why.

CBS 5 SF Bay Area was first with the news, noting that locals are complaining about the self-driving cars flocking to the end of 15th Avenue. One local complained that it was disturbing her sleep because the Waymo vehicles have a “strange hum.”

“There are some days where it can be up to 50,” the same local told CBS. “It’s literally every five minutes. And we’re all working from home, so this is what we hear.”

The local news station managed to film what could arguably be described as a flock of Waymo self-driving cars on the dead-end street. At one point, the Waymo vehicles are seemingly queuing up while working out what they should do.

“We have talked to the drivers, who don’t have much to say other than the car is programmed and they’re just doing their job,” another resident told CBS 5.

A spokesperson for Waymo didn’t exactly clarify things, saying that “in this case, cars traveling North of California on 15th Ave. have to take a u-turn due to the presence of Slow Streets signage on Lake. So, the Waymo Driver was obeying the same road rules that any car is required to follow.”

That doesn’t come close to explaining why flocks of Waymo cars are all traveling up a dead-end street to begin with.

The cars are also seemingly testing vehicles rather than having them in commercial service. Waymo announced in February that it was testing autonomous robotaxi services in San Francisco. None of the cars in the local media footage had passengers in them.

Despite the promise going back over a decade, the reality is that autonomous vehicle technology is challenging. If it weren’t hard, we’d all be being driven around in self-driving taxis already.

Tesla Inc. is one company that claims to have self-driving cars, but its system is far from perfect. Although Tesla vehicles may not be flocking to a dead-end in San Francisco, their self-driving functionality continues to have issues. In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it was investigating Telsa’s Autopilot system after 11 crashes where Tesla vehicles collided with stationary emergency vehicles.

Those 11 cases may be the tip of the iceberg. It was revealed in September that Tesla was named in hundreds of cases in mainland China. Not all of those cases may be linked to Autopilot crashes, but there is no shortage of cases in the Middle Kingdom where Tesla vehicles in Autopilot mode have been involved in accidents.

Photo: Waymo

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