'Confused' Self-Driving Cars Keep Driving Into A Quiet Dead-end SF Street

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Waymo is owned by Google parent Alphabet
Waymo is owned by Google parent Alphabet AFP / Glenn CHAPMAN

A quiet San Francisco neighborhood is witnessing a sudden increase in traffic as confused self-driving Waymo taxis owned by Alphabet Inc end up in a dead-end street.

Several passengers of Waymo’s automated robotaxi service reportedly ended up at the dead-end in the city’s Richmond District and were forced to turn the cars around themselves, disrupting their experience.  Neighbors say the lines of cars are becoming a bit of a nuisance. 

"There are some days when it can be up to 50," resident Jennifer King told KPIX. "It's literally every five minutes. And we're all working from home, so this is what we hear."

King said the cars keep coming all day around, one after another. At times there are some pauses but it never really stops. 

Another resident Andrea Lewin told KPIX that this has been going on for weeks. "It's been going on for six, eight weeks, maybe more," Lewin said. 

Waymo uses a technology called "lidar" sensors, which creates a picture of the vehicle’s surroundings. When the sensor encounters something like a dead end, it commands the vehicle to stop.

It is unclear if a glitch in its sensor or some other fault in its automated system is drawing the cars to the dead-end.

"We have talked to the drivers, who don’t have much to say other than the car is programmed and they’re just doing their job," King said.

Waymo told the outlet that it is looking into the particular issue.

This is not the first time that the Waymo cars have had trouble. According to a CNN report, Waymo cars are not using shared lanes currently, which makes the trips longer than an Uber or Lyft ride. So, at times the automated vehicles take longer roundabout routes instead of taking a left turn. 

The Waymo cars also get confused by puddles on the roads. At that point, a human test driver has to take over the wheel.

Waymo has cultivated a unique loyalty among its customers who say they prefer the robotaxi service to Uber or Lyft rides or even owning a car.

Waymo rolled out its self-driving services in San Francisco in August and encouraged people to use and test their vehicles as part of its "Trusted Tester" program.




Photo: AFP / Glenn CHAPMAN

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