Robotaxis operated by GM autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise created a traffic jam in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, California on August 11th starting at about 11 PM Pacific time, simultaneous with the Outside Lands Music Festival taking place in Golden Gate Park.
A minimum of ten and possibly as many as twelve Cruise AV robotaxis halted in an intersection, creating a traffic stoppage that snarled human-driven vehicles in a jam encompassing parts of Columbus Avenue, Grant Avenue, and Vallejo Street, as NBC Bay Area reported:
The Cruise AV vehicles either stopped or maneuvered within a limited area, apparently attempting to disentangle themselves from the traffic jam they had created. Passersby and traffic officials noted the vehicles causing the jam were all driverless, with Frisco Live 415 on X (formerly Twitter) noting “self-driving operations had a complete meltdown earlier in North Beach.”
While the Cruise robotaxi traffic obstacle was four miles distant from Golden Gate Park where the Outside Lands Music Festival – an extravaganza of music, food, liquor, and marijuana – was under way, Cruise identified the festival as the source of wireless interference that scrambled the ability of the Cruise AVs to navigate.
Cruise stated in an X post, “A large festival posed wireless bandwidth constraints causing delayed connectivity to our vehicles.” GM’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary said it is “actively investigating and working on solutions to prevent this from happening again” and issued an apology “to those who were impacted.”
The festival-induced traffic jam came just one day after the California Public Utilities Commission voted to allow Cruise and Waymo robotaxi service to operate throughout San Francisco 24/7, over the objections of many residents and even city administrators. Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt hailed the decision as “a signal to the country that [California] prioritizes progress over our tragic status quo.”
Following the Friday night Cruise AV traffic jam, the city’s president of the Board of Supervisors, Aaron Peskin, reiterated a familiar statement that Cruise autonomous vehicles are unready for “prime time.” He said “these are amazing devices, but they’re still rough around the edges, and they should not be expanded until the technology has been worked out.”
Peskin described the fact that disruptions to cell service caused a major traffic jam as “scary as heck.” He noted that natural disasters and other disruptions could knock out cell service entirely and with it the ability of Cruise AVs to navigate or act. He addressed the governor, saying action needs to be taken on the AVs “before somebody gets killed.”
Meanwhile, Cruise continues to expand its AV network aggressively. Testing of its AVs in Atlanta, Georgia was recently announced, marking the eighth city across the U.S. to host the modified, driverless Chevy Bolt EV crossovers.
Mid-August also saw Cruise AV robotaxis achieve the milestone of 4 million driverless miles traveled, with CEO Kyle Vogt saying the company’s autonomous vehicles are “now driving at a pace exceeding 1 million driverless miles per month.”