Cruise’s fully autonomous robotaxis recently contributed to some annoying road congestion in the streets of Austin, as captured by a video you can see below. The footage comes at a somewhat turbulent time for the self-driving rideshare company, as its vehicles are catching some opposition from residents in the cities they operate in. As is with most cases, there’s more to the story here, which appears to be a perfect example of an EV being at the wrong place at the wrong time… except in this case, it was a large chunk of Cruise’s Austin fleet…
While most people would argue that the self-driving cars from companies like Cruise, Waymo, and Motional do more to ease the pains of traffic congestion and pollution than they contribute, not everyone is hailing down the rideshare bandwagon just yet.
In San Francisco, home to many of these robotaxi companies, local “vigilantes” (or, better yet, NIMBYs) have used the traffic cone as their weapon of opposition, covering up sensors on the EVs to stop them in their tracks. Way to show ’em, guys; that’ll stop road congestion!
While we don’t agree with the tampering of robotaxis, it’s not unfair to say that the nascent technology has room for improvement, and some feel that urban municipalities should not be used as a testing ground. Regardless, companies like Cruise have come a long way, expanding beyond the Bay Area into new cities throughout California and outside of The Golden State in Austin, Texas.
Unfortunately, some of Cruise’s growing pains in Austin were caught on camera as a swarm of robotaxis flooded a congested area. We spoke to Cruise and got the lowdown about what exactly happened.
Cruise found its robotaxi fleet in a (literal) jam in Austin
To truly grasp the traffic situation, you need to check out the full video from Reddit user u/analkaos posted to r/damnthatsinteresting yesterday. The 48-second clip shows gridlocked traffic on a narrow Austin street dominated by Cruise EVs.
According to the team at Cruise, the fleet ended up in a high-demand area, which also brought with it a slew of pedestrian and passenger vehicle traffic. As you can see in the video, one of the Cruise vehicles got stuck in an intersection while committing to a turn, thus further congesting traffic in three different directions.
Unfortunately, more and more Cruise robotaxis flooded the narrow Austin street to meet the peak demand, only to join in the traffic jam. But why were there so many robotaxis in this one specific area? Cruise states that at the time, there were limited routes going north and south through the city, and a detour from an alternative route led the EVs to the same doomed parkway.
Unfortunately, Cruise could not manually reroute the vehicles quickly enough, so there was nowhere for them to go. That being said, as soon as the company became aware of the traffic situation, it immediately stepped in and resolved the issue, leading all its EVs to exit the area and do so autonomously. Cruise shared the following statement with Electrek regarding the video shot in Austin:
We prioritize safety in everything we do. It was a crowded, challenging environment; and, there was no pedestrian, vehicle or property damage.
We fully recognize the inconvenience, and we’ve taken proactive measures to relieve the crowding in the area.
Our expanded ODD will help to reduce concentration of vehicles and provide more services to the places customers want to be.
This was a minor inconvenience at best for those unfortunate drivers who got temporarily stuck in that mess but a pain nonetheless. Luckily, there weren’t any orange cones around!
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