Imagine if your "normally quiet neighborhood" suddenly had a fleet of self-driving cars entering it on a regular basis. That might not be too much of an issue if you didn't live on a dead-end street.
It seems Waymo's semi-autonomous vehicles are unaware that the side street has no outlet, so they enter, seem lost and confused, and then need to figure out how to turn around and exit the neighborhood. Meanwhile, every few minutes, several other Waymo cars are on their way into the residential area, which creates a bottleneck, strange noises, and much confusion. This continues through the night while residents are trying to sleep.
The CBS San Francisco Bay Area news says neighbors are "buzzing" about the situation as there's been "an explosion" of traffic. The peaceful dead-end street is regularly crowded with traffic now. It's not a busy area or a busy intersection, but for some reason, Waymo's self-driving cars seem to be flocking to the area.
This all causes concern for people who live on the 15th Avenue Richmond District street. The Waymo cars are in and out of the neighborhood day and night. They struggle to turn around at the dead end, and end up having to initiate a three-point turn to exit the neighborhood, only to return again. Resident Jennifer King told CBS:
“I noticed it while I was sleeping. I awoke to a strange hum and I thought there was a spacecraft outside my bedroom window.”
She went on to say that the cars come and go all day, and it never actually stops. As soon as one Waymo car eventually figures out how to leave the area, another is on its way in. King continued:
“There are some days where it can be up to 50. It’s literally every five minutes. And we’re all working from home, so this is what we hear.”
At times, the Waymo self-driving vehicles begin to pile up, as they seem "baffled by the dead end." This makes it even more difficult for the cars to exit, not to mention for residents to come and go with ease.
Some neighbors have talked to the safety drivers of the cars, and they won't share much. They figure the Waymo vehicles are programmed to take the route on their own, so the safety drivers are just doing their job.
This has been going on now for some six to eight weeks, according to residents. Fortunately, there have been no reports of pedestrian or pet injuries, or damage to anyone's property, though the potential for an issue in a residential neighborhood with constant autonomous traffic is a bit scary.
Meanwhile, Tesla is using owners to test the Beta version of its Full Self-Driving software. However, the drivers are in control of the vehicle at all times. If a car with FSD Beta entered the neighborhood and couldn't figure out what to do or how to turn around, the driver could simply engage and exit. Chances are, the Tesla owner wouldn't ever head back down that street.
The fact that these Waymo cars are reportedly "programmed" to enter a residential neighborhood day in and day out for months is just peculiar, and the residents are looking for answers. Fortunately, after a call from CBS, Waymo says it's going to look into the situation.
What do you make of this? It's certainly strange, but should people be worried that the neighborhood is at any risk? With all the talk about the way Tesla is choosing to test and roll out its software, should this situation be under the scrutiny of federal investigators as well?