2 Waymo self-driving cars stall at SF Pride Parade street closures during heavy traffic

J.R. Stone Image
Monday, June 26, 2023
2 Waymo self-driving cars stall at SF Pride parade street closures
Two self-driving Waymo cars stalled out in the middle of two separate intersections just blocks away from each other in downtown SF following the Pride parade.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- On a day when there was terrible traffic in San Francisco due to the Pride Parade and the Giants game, two self-driving Waymo cars didn't help things.

They stalled out in the middle of two separate intersections after San Francisco's Pride parade was over.

One of the Waymo cars stalled out in the intersection of 3rd and Howard on Sunday around 3 p.m.

In a video clip it looks like those with traffic enforcement are talking to someone inside, but there's no one there which was evident when we walked up to the car.

"It definitely contributed to the traffic downtown," said Jose Fermoso, a traffic violence reporter for The Oaklandside.

Fermoso is not referring to the video that ABC7 recorded at 3rd and Howard. He's referring to the situation and video he recorded at 2nd and Howard, also after the parade. A driverless Waymo car also stalled in that intersection trying to go towards Market Street.

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"We overheard a policewoman explain that she was surprised and she actually peered into the car and she said, "Nobody is in there!" which was, it was a little bit funny but it's also difficult for all of us stuck in traffic," said Fermoso.

Those with the SFMTA say the number of reported incidents with not only Waymo, but Cruise almost tripled in March and April compared to the two prior months. They have asked the California Public Utilities Commission to allow an incremental expansion of self-driving services, but not 24-hour service expansion across the city. The CPUC is set to vote on the issue Thursday.

Last week San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson described the problems the department is having with the self-driving vehicles. He said they are getting at least one call a day about the vehicles stalling out or driving where they aren't supposed to go.

"They have driven into shooting scenes and fire scenes and just been a menace in so many ways to the San Francisco Fire Department, our trucks, and ambulances," said Chief Nicholson.

The self-driving car at 3rd and Howard was given a 108 dollar ticket and drove off 15 to 20 minutes later according to officials there.

EXCLUSIVE: Video shows Cruise driverless car stalled on SF street for hours

Video taken by a San Francisco resident shows a Cruise driverless car stalled on a San Francisco street for hours, just near a freeway exit.

ABC7 News reached out to Waymo but did not receive a response. Last week they gave a statement to the LA Times saying in part, "Safety is the heart of it's mission."

The fire chief though is concerned.

"We've really gotten lucky so far but it's only a matter of time before something really, really catastrophic happens," said Nicholson.

The SFMTA provided this statement Sunday:

We are not the regulatory authority for AVs. Many times, social media gets wind first then we find out after. As for today, we are unaware how many more stalled AVs took place. Please find attached our presentation deck from Thursday when we presented at the AV data workshop to the CPUC Commission. We are currently waiting for this coming Thursday, June 29 for the decision and truly hope that automated driving can significantly improve safety and provide other benefits to those who travel in San Francisco. We are excited about this possibility, however, we are not there yet. This technology is still in development and is simply not ready to operate 24/7 in the city.

The number of reported incidents involving Cruise and Waymo in March and April was almost triple what it was in the prior two months. AVs are causing hazards on our roadways:

  • Interfere with emergency response;
  • impact transit operations; and
  • entering active construction sites and crime scenes by entering them even though they are marked with cones/signs/tape.
  • could not detect a road closure tape and drove through a closed lane and became tangled in downed Muni Power lines.
  • A preliminary analysis by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority finds that between June and November 2022, Cruise's injury collision rate is over 6 times higher than the 2021 national average for human drivers.

SF has been at the forefront of other mobility innovation, and what we have learned informs our position on this issue. We want the California Public Utilities Commission to authorize an incremental expansion of AV services, as opposed to 24-hour service across the entire city. The CPUC has a duty to protect public safety, and we are urging it to do just that. The Commission has acknowledged many of our concerns about AVs but still proposes to approve Waymo and Cruise requests to operate in San Francisco without limitations. As always, we want to work together with industry and regulators. Our doors are open.

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