The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last week granted approval to Alphabet's Waymo and GM's Cruise to offer paid rides in their robotaxis in San Francisco around the clock.
This basically allows all-day paid robotaxi service in San Francisco, with unlimited fleets of self-driving cars. Despite the decision, incidents in recent months have shown that robotaxis have still a long way to go before achieving incident-free usage.
One day after the August 10 decision from the California Public Utilities Commission, an incident involving 10 Cruise AV robotaxis gave more ammo to self-driving car skeptics.
Last Friday night, as many as 10 Cruise autonomous robotaxis ended up stopping in San Francisco's North Beach, causing traffic to back up.
Social media posts showed multiple Cruise AVs stopped in the middle of Grant Avenue with their hazard lights engaged for no apparent reason. The robotaxis blocked other vehicles from moving for about 20 minutes.
Cruise replied to one of the posts on social media network X (formerly Twitter) and stated that the problem was caused by "wireless connectivity issues," which immobilized its driverless robotaxis.
"A large festival posed wireless bandwidth constraints causing delayed connectivity to our vehicles. We are actively investigating and working on solutions to prevent this from happening again. We apologize to those who were impacted."
The San Francisco Police Department confirmed that the cell connectivity issues were caused by the large number of people at the Outside Lands music festival.
This didn't go down well with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, whose president Aaron Peskin threatened to take action against the California Public Utilities Commission's approval for 24/7 robotaxi rides in San Francisco.
"What this says to me is when cell phones fail, if there's a power outage or if there's a natural disaster like we just saw in Lahaina that these cars could congest our streets at the precise time when we would be needing to deploy emergency apparatus," Aaron Peskin said according to ABC7 News.
He said the City of San Francisco will be petitioning the CPUC asking them to reconsider the approval for 24/7 robotaxi rides. If need be, Peskin stated the city would appeal to the DMV. "We're not trying to put the genie back in the bottle, but we are standing up for public safety," he said.