A Swarm of Self-Driving Cruise Taxis Blocked San Francisco Traffic for Hours
More than a half-dozen Cruise-branded Chevy Bolts were reportedly stuck blocking lanes for hours.
General Motors' self-driving arm, Cruise, recently secured a permit to begin charging for driverless rides around San Francisco in its self-driving robotaxis. In its short stint on the roads, things haven't exactly been going as smoothly as locals would hope.
Last Tuesday, a swarm of Cruise-branded Chevrolet Bolts malfunctioned simultaneously at the same location, resulting in a blockade of cars across a four-lane road that reportedly jammed traffic for hours.
News of the stuck Cruise vehicles was first reported on Reddit. Several commenters called out the location and time that it occurred. The cars occupied three of the four lanes at the intersection of Gough and Fulton streets in San Francisco around midnight last Tuesday, causing passing vehicles to utilize just a single lane to navigate the traffic jam.
Between six and seven Cruise employees reportedly responded to the incident. The first arrived on the scene in around 20 minutes and put up traffic triangles, according to the Reddit post. The rest arrived shortly after and were eventually able to move the cars manually, as the cars were said to be lined up around the corner.
It's not immediately clear what caused the clustering of vehicles. Cruise did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the matter from The Drive. It did, however, provide a statement to TechCrunch on the issue:
“We had an issue earlier this week that caused some of our vehicles to cluster together," a Cruise spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “While it was resolved and no passengers were impacted, we apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced.”
It's worth noting that this wasn’t the first time Cruise has had a "vehicle retrieval event" (VRE) for one of its self-driving taxis.
Just a week earlier, another group of Cruise vehicles became stuck at an intersection less than two miles away. Inside one of the vehicles, the passenger-facing screens displayed a first responder hotline and notified onlookers that the cars were parked until "the issue was resolved." Another line on the screen advised that an actual person was dispatched to help remedy the problem, as was the case in the most recent event.
An unverified post on Reddit who claimed to be a Cruise employee says that these VREs are something to be concerned about as Cruise expands its hours of operation. The poster called Cruise a "highly chaotic environment where safety related discussion is routinely discouraged" and mentioned that they have sent a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) outlining why these events are likely to become more frequent and how they could affect first responder vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks.
Cruise has been offering free rides on select roads of San Francisco in its driverless vehicles since February. In the company's agreement with the City of San Francisco, its vehicles could navigate the roadways between the hours of 10 PM and 5 AM at a maximum speed of just 30 MPH. Cruise was only recently granted a permit by the CPUC to begin charging riders commercially.
It's not clear if the City of San Francisco has anticipated these kinds of events or if there will be any repercussions for Cruise vehicles violating road laws. In April, a driverless Cruise vehicle was pulled over by police for having a headlight out. The company says that it did not receive a citation for this event.