Self-driving tech might be marching ahead, but for some residents in a quiet dead-end street in San Francisco, the price of progress involves up to 50 Jaguar I-Paces descending upon the lane every day.
The cars in question belong to Waymo, Google’s self-driving-tech sibling company. San Francisco was only the second city where the firm offers its nascent autonomous vehicle ride-hailing service to the public—although the company has been testing its systems there for a decade. But their latest fleet of cars seems to have been foiled by a cul-de-sac, located in San Francisco’s Richmond district on 15th Avenue.
According to local station KPIX, the cars flock to the street at all hours, before making a three-point turn and driving off again. The self-driving cars (which have human safety drivers) sometimes even queue up, ready to perform the odd ritual, before going on their way. The strange behavior has been reported to have been going on for six to eight weeks. When residents questioned the drivers, they were told that it’s the way the cars are programmed and that they (the drivers) were doing their job.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 14, 2021
A statement from Waymo, in response to The Verge, put the pattern down to the nearby presence of a so-called Slow Street, whereby vehicle movements are restricted through some residential regions. “We continually adjust to dynamic San Francisco road rules,” the spokesperson said. “In this case, cars traveling North of California on 15th Ave have to take a u-turn due to the presence of Slow Streets signage on Lake. So, the Waymo Driver was obeying the same road rules that any car is required to follow.”
But according to KPIX, Waymo’s antics are disturbing the peace. “I noticed it while I was sleeping,” said local resident Jennifer King. “I awoke to a strange hum, and I thought there was a spacecraft outside my bedroom window.”