Autonomous Cars Putting Strain on Local Governments

As the industry pushes ahead in fits and starts, local officials and first responders are scrambling to develop protocols for handling driverless vehicles.

1 minute read

November 29, 2023, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


White and red Cruise self-driving car with "Self-driver in training" sign on back

A Cruise autonomous car being tested in San Francisco, California. | Sundry Photography / Adobe Stock

In an article for The New York Times, Yiwen Lu describes how driverless vehicles are creating headaches for city workers and officials and, in some cases, putting residents in danger. “In San Francisco and Austin, Texas, where passengers can hail autonomous vehicles, the cars have slowed down emergency response times, caused accidents, increased congestion and added to the workloads of local officials, said police officers, firefighters and other city employees.”

In one example from San Francisco, two Waymo autonomous vehicles blocked an ambulance from leaving a scene after picking up a patient, delaying their arrival at the hospital by seven minutes that could have made a difference between life and death.

Now, cities around the country are preparing for autonomous vehicles—and expending public resources—by creating dedicated city offices and training first responders to deal with self-driving cars. San Francisco’s fire chief, Jeanine Nicholson, told the Times that “her department was now at a ‘decent place’ with the companies and added that Cruise’s suspension offered more time to work out issues with the cars in emergency situations. But she anticipated more meetings and adjustments as other self-driving companies moved in.” After issuing controversial approvals in August, California rescinded Cruise’s license two months later.

Monday, November 20, 2023 in The New York Times

Satalite image of a bright green lake surrounded by brownish-green land

California’s Largest Natural Lake Turns Green With … Algae

A potentially toxic algal bloom has turned Clear Lake in Northern California bright green, fed by increased runoff from human activity.

June 4, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Walkway at San Gabriel River Park.

From Duck Farm to Parkland

The opening of the San Gabriel River Park expands access to green spaces for residents in the San Gabriel Valley, especially for Avocado Heights and other park-poor communities in the area.

6 hours ago - San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Oak tree with golden hour sun coming through its leaves on a hill in the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California.

Southern California’s Oak Trees are Under Threat

Goldspotted oak borers (GSOB) are invasive pests that are harming and killing oak trees across San Diego, Riverside, Orange, and Los Angeles counties.

7 hours ago - Los Angeles Times

Close-up of natural gas stove burner with blue flames.

Berkeley Voters to Decide on Building Gas Tax

The city could tax large buildings that use gas in lieu of enacting a law that would have banned gas-powered buildings altogether.

June 12 - Smart Cities Dive

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.