San Francisco Officials Detail Self-Driving Car ‘Mayhem’ in Letter to State

In the worst version of the autonomous future, San Francisco firefighters have to fight off a self-driving car that crashed into their equipment during a fire, prompting calls for stricter regulations.

2 minute read

February 9, 2023, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Incidents like a recent one in which San Francisco firefighters had to smash the window of a driverless Cruise car that plowed into an active fire scene highlight the need for stricter regulations on autonomous vehicles. 

Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, Ricardo Cano explains that the incident was just one of many. “In letters to the California Public Utilities Commission seeking to curtail their expansion, the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency and County Transportation Authority documented at least 92 incidents between late May and December where self-driving taxis created mayhem on city streets — disrupting traffic, Muni transit and emergency responders.”

The article details some of the Muni disruptions: “During the night of Sept. 23, five Cruise cars blocked traffic lanes on Mission Street in Bernal Heights, stalling a Muni bus for 45 minutes. On at least three different occasions, Cruise cars stopped on Muni light-rail tracks, halting service.”

According to Cano, “Last year, California regulators allowed Waymo to test its cars in San Francisco without a safety driver and gave Cruise permission to charge for driverless rides in roughly 30% of city streets between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. — a time period when there’s less car and pedestrian traffic.”

But city regulators have repeatedly shown concern. “Their latest correspondence underscores the tension between agencies overseeing city streets and state-regulated autonomous vehicle companies under pressure to commercialize and prove their technologies work without incident.” San Francisco officials say they want the state to require more robust reporting of incidents and proof that the vehicles can operate effectively during rush hours before they can extend their operations.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023 in San Francisco Chronicle

Black and white Rideshare Pick-Up Zone sign

The Slow Death of Ride Sharing

From the beginning, TNCs like Lyft and Uber touted shared rides as their key product. Now, Lyft is ending the practice.

June 1, 2023 - Human Transit

Urban sidewalk shaded by large mature trees

Cool Walkability Planning

Shadeways (covered sidewalks) and pedways (enclosed, climate controlled walkways) can provide comfortable walkability in hot climates. The Cool Walkshed Index can help plan these facilities.

June 1, 2023 - Todd Litman

Interstate 55 with cars and green freeway signs in Chicago, Illinois

Illinois Legislators Pass Controversial I-55 Road Expansion Legislation

Legislation to enable the addition of express toll lanes on Interstate 55 in the Southwest Side of Chicago, opposed by environmental justice advocates, cleared the Illinois General Assembly last month.

June 7, 2023 - Chicago Tribune

Dallas Freeways

Federal Infrastructure Dollars Funding Road Expansions

Far from kickstarting a transformative change in transportation policy, the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law continues to fund traditional road-building projects.

June 9 - Climatewire

An aerial view of a park and the streets and high-rises of Downtown Omaha.

Downtown Omaha Planning for its Post-One-Way-Streets Era

The Omaha City Council has decided to reverse the transportation model adopted in the city in the 1950s, for the benefit of traffic safety and local retail activity.

June 9 - KETV

A red sun appears on the horizon, as obscured by haze from wildfire smoke.

Planning for Proximity, for the Climate’s Sake

A new global platform will help the world identify and encourage opportunities for more proximity in the built environment—development patterns that can help reduce sources of greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution if built well.

June 9 - C40 Cities

Assistant/Associate Planner

Bossier City - Parish MPC

Principal Planner – Advanced Plans

Wichita-Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Planning Department

Planning Officer

City of Bangor

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.