How Self-Driving Cars Are Integrating—or Not—Into the Urban Fabric

As they become more common on some U.S. streets, autonomous vehicles are impeding emergency response operations and blocking traffic, idling in neighborhoods, and defying law enforcement.

1 minute read

May 2, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Self-driving white Waymo Jaguar SUV on street in Chandler, Arizona

Around the World Photos / Waymo car in Chandler, Arizona

What’s a self-driving car to do when it’s not doing its job? For Waymo vehicles in Phoenix, the answer is parking, lights and sensors still on, in legal curbside parking spots, reports Lane Sainty for Arizona Republic.

According to Waymo, “Continuing to drive around would add to traffic congestion and be inefficient, he said, and waiting nearby — as opposed to going back to a Waymo facility — means vehicles can arrive quickly when called.”

The Waymo rollout in Phoenix, like in other cities, hasn’t been entirely smooth. “On April 7, a busy First Friday night downtown, a number of self-driving Waymo vehicles came to a stop along First Street, the resulting traffic jam captured in a viral TikTok. And on Wednesday morning, an autonomous Waymo vehicle stopped unexpectedly in the middle of Roosevelt Row, forcing commuters to drive around it.”

In San Francisco, writes Joe Eskenazi in a Mission Local article, self-driving cars are causing even bigger headaches, in some cases impeding emergency vehicles and personnel and driving into dangerous situations. “To date, no firefighter has been run over, and no fire victim has suffered because emergency personnel have been unable to move their vehicles or access fire hydrants. But this, like the fact there was no electricity running through those downed Muni wires, appears to be a series of lucky breaks.”

Thursday, April 27, 2023 in Arizona Republic

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