Waymo, facing opposition against expansion in San Francisco, announces Austin as a new market

Originally published at: Waymo, facing opposition against expansion in San Francisco, announces Austin as a new market | Boing Boing


As of July 25, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has received 627 Autonomous Vehicle Collision Reports, according to its website. The transportation agency said the AVs stop in place when confused instead of pulling over; pick up and drop off passengers in traffic lanes and have difficulty understanding things like traffic control officers or construction sites.

Good luck on getting past this bug on 6th Street any given weekend night.


right?! it’s gonna be a nightmare.




“we’ll reach out when it’s your time to ride”

Sounds a bit like a vague threat.


Austin already has an autonomous taxi service operating there, called Cruise.


Sometimes when reading articles about autonomous vehicles, I get the idea that there are people who don’t think autonomous vehicles are ready, don’t think they will ever be ready, and don’t think they should be ready.

I wonder, what is the bar to clear there? Humans get in car accidents for various reasons, and I’m assuming the majority are “not paying attention”. N=1 but all car accidents I’ve been in were the result of (me) not paying attention for sure. I would guess that a computer system can pay much more attention to much more stuff much more constantly than a human; however you then have to make the right reaction, in time, to minimize human injury and then property injury. I don’t think humans can necessarily make those decisions authoritatively sometimes - it’s not the trolley problem, it’s more like you’re trying to maximize a positive outcome and hoping it works out that way. I also don’t think there’s anything about being a human that means we can make those decisions and a computer cannot. We aren’t magical.

TLDR: I’m not sure we’ll be able to have autonomous vehicles that don’t get in accidents. Does that mean we shouldn’t have autonomous vehicles?

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It’s not only about the number of accidents (although that is a very important metric.) It’s really not too much to demand that if a company is going to put potentially deadly machines on public roads that those machines need to be able to behave in a completely transparent and predictable way, which they clearly are not doing currently. And if a traffic control officer wants a vehicle to stop or pull over then it damn well better stop or pull over. I’d suggest that like other potentially dangerous machinery it needs a readily accessible physical kill switch as well. Right now there’s not even an audible or visual warning if the thing is about to start moving, which is ridiculous.

We’ll probably get to the point where autonomous vehicles are common and reasonably safe, but we’re not there yet. And I think the State and Federal governments really need to demand more safety protocols than they have been so far. A traffic control officer shouldn’t need to call a Waymo service line in order to get a car to stop doing something weird.


I think passing Asimov’s First Law of Robotics is a good place to start.


I would think it’s hard to have autonomous vehicles follow directions of traffic control personnel / first responders / etc. And that indeed seems really important.

It seems trivial to put some sort of “attention: this vehicle is about to begin driving” audio message. Electric vehicles already have to make noises when in electric mode - manufacturers did that without much of a fuss (or if they made a fuss, they also universally implemented it). That’s a really good point about that lack of functionality. You’d normally assume a car will move if a person got into it and is now driving it; if a car is parked and suddenly started driving around, that’s unexpected (for now).

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Difficult or not, in my mind that absolutely needs to be a prerequisite before putting these things on public roads, even if it takes them another 10 or 20 years to figure it out. They could, of course, have someone remotely monitoring every car in real time, ready to intervene whenever there are cops or emergency responders in the area, but that would require a lot more money and these companies are in the “move fast and break things” mindset.


As someone who lives in the center of the country’s most densely built and populated city, I cannot wait until we not only have autonomous vehicles, but until autonomous mode is MANDATED to be used by all cars and trucks within dense urban areas. The amount of speeding and reckless driving that goes on here, coupled with the complete lack of enforcement by police, and laws that favor motorists in the event of an accident to the extent that one can get away with murder here if you do it with a car, I say bring them on, things can’t really get worse.

autonomous cars will increase traffic density not decrease it. it’ll be far cheaper for them to rove than to park, and there will be 25 unregulated services all competing for the quickest pick-up. frankly, i think it’ll be a nightmare.

the great ensh*tification also ensures rider experience will become disastrous once taxis are dead. the easiest to envision will be wall to wall video ads you have to pay to opt out of. and likely different tiers for speed of passage, strangers on your cost optimized route, etc. ( less clear but probably inevitable is the ryanair version: pay to roll down your window, or to get ac. )

the only way to reduce traffic is make significant improvements in mass transit… but nobody makes money off that.


comedy looks real GIF by Kim's Convenience


Another bar that needs clearing is accountability. When a human-driven car crashes, we have a legal framework of accountability. The driver is responsible, they have insurance, and everything is worked out in a fair and understood way. If two cars hit each other, there’s an elaborate but fair and understandable set of guidelines for figuring out whose fault it was.

Currently, autonomous vehicles have none of this. The companies making them are working very hard to absolve themselves of any responsibility for anything they do. The same as Google says it’s not their fault if your Android phone gets a virus leading to your identity theft, Cruise would very much like to claim it’s not their fault if their car hits you and cripples your leg. “It’s just a software bug,” they’ll say. “Couldn’t be helped, but it’ll be fixed in the next version,” they’ll say.

Another bar that needs clearing is a major social justice issue. These cars are going to make traffic a lot, lot worse. All the use cases described for them involve them circling cities endlessly for the benefit of the wealthy who can afford them. They are occupying road real estate needed by public transit, bicycles, pedestrians, and other more just forms of transport. The world does not need ever-more-clever forms of single-occupancy car. We need societal transportation solutions.


I was visiting my dad in Phoenix recently and ended up driving behind one of these in the area (not sure which part of the valley). I turned and went literally any other direction I could as soon as possible.

I work in tech, specifically with data. I’m terrified of self driving cars at this stage in the game of… everything including both tech, policy, and city design.


capitalism. fool me once, shame on … you. fool me - you can’t fool me again.

we’ve already seen traffic go up with ride shares. we’ve seen ensh*tification again and again. we can choose a different route or we can allow it to happen with this too

i think that choice is where the opinion part comes in. and i know which option i’d choose.


Even in the pie-in-the-sky tech bro fantasy vision of how self-driving cars would work they would provide only modest improvements for transportation efficiency in dense urban areas.

If you’re going to enact draconian new laws governing what kind of vehicles can travel through dense urban areas then why not just invest in proven solutions like mass transit and dedicated bike paths?


Here’s something else that doesn’t get said enough about autonomous cars. Right now, people are a pretty good limiting force on the number of cars on the road. The simple fact that you have to have at least one person in each car and one person who owns each car throttles their quantity quite a bit.

Autonomous cars shatter that constraint. The moment they can, some tech bro is going to buy five thousand of them and carpet bomb the city with them. No labour costs, and no other constraints are keeping them from doing so. Any one person can put an infinite number of autonomous cars on the road. And they will.

Look how much traffic got worse with ride sharing, and those cars still have the one-person-per-car minimum constraint. Imagine that constraint removed.