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 After issuing controversial approvals in August, California rescinded Cruise’s license two months later.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

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