AUSTIN, Texas — Driverless cars continue to be an issue around the City of Austin. Last month a video surfaced online showing multiple driverless cars halting traffic after a University of Texas at Austin football game. The city says that incident was one of over a dozen potential hazards that were reported in recent months, regarding self-driving vehicles.
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Autonomous cars are now sparking conversations about how they are managed. During a Downtown Commission meeting Wednesday evening, one of the companies that deployed self-driving cars on Austin roadways updated commissioners on current operations.
While no action was taken, they did talk about how companies can work to address safety concerns.
“They have shown to cause more chaos than order which is what I have been noticing,” said Austinite Hallie Sweeney.
Austinite Hallie Sweeney works at a downtown Austin clothing store along a route frequently used by self-driving cars. When she sees one of the vehicles approaching, she tells CBS Austin her instinct is to steer clear.
“They’re a neat thing to see attraction but they’ve caused the flow of traffic to not work as easily as it has and they often get stuck in intersections and they don’t notice pedestrians as well, whenever they’re walking by, which has been the most scary thing to watch, especially as someone who works down here,” she said.
During a Downtown Commission meeting Wednesday Yariel Diaz, a representative with Cruise, one of the rideshare companies currently operating autonomous vehicles on city roadways addressed these concerns.
“Safety is our top and number one priority,” said Diaz.
Commissioner Jen Weaver then talked about an unpleasant experience she had which prompted her to provide suggestions that will help improve safety.
“I walk a lot. I walk my dog a lot and I’ve almost been hit by a cruise several times when we’re crossing the street. So I would like to request that the unsafe conditions be easier to report with bigger signage that someone can see easier from a distance,” said Weaver.
****Editors Note: Commissioner Weaver has since informed CBS Austin she misspoke during her remarks, and requested her quote be changed to her being almost hit by a Cruise. *****
Cruise has since reached out to CBS Austin about Commissioner Weaver’s claims and informed us they were not aware of the occurrence.
“Our technology is designed to track all objects and road users and will maneuver in the safest way possible. Safety is our chief mission –– not only for our passengers but for everyone we share the road with. We have no record of vehicles impacting pedestrians in Austin, and there were no references to incidents like this filed with the city or with Cruise.
Cruise aspires to be a good neighbor in our communities and be respectful of local residents, property, and roads. We value feedback and encourage anyone with a concern to reach out to us,” Cruise wrote in a statement.
Between July 8th and October 11th, 43 safety complaints were filed regarding robotic cars. The City of Austin provided us with a list of those incidents.
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The grievances range from people nearly being hit, blocked roadways, and noise complaints among other issues. Cruise pledged to follow up on these concerns.
“I appreciate you bringing these things up. I’m relaying this feedback to see how we can improve that. “For the time being there is a complaint email,” said Diaz.
HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT/CONTACT CRUISE:
- To file a complaint: [email protected]
- For local inquiries: [email protected]
- For rider support: [email protected]
- For delivery business inquiries: [email protected]
In 2017 state lawmakers passed legislation that prevents local governments from regulating self-driving cars. To ensure safety the city created an autonomous vehicle task force. This allows them to stay in constant communication and exchange information to make sure best practices are in place.