It looks like the future isn’t quite here yet. Austin, Texas is the latest testing ground for a new generation of autonomous driverless vehicles. But so far the only grade they’ve earned is an “F” for blocking traffic.
Austin journalist Robert Downen took to Twitter late Friday night to post videos of two cars blocking the busy downtown intersection of Seventh and Red River Streets. The two cars were painted in the livery of Cruise, a driverless car service company that recently began operations in the Texas capitol.
^An hour after I posted this video, we walked out and there was a new one blocking traffic. pic.twitter.com/Nor6l42xcB— Robert Downen (@RobertDownen_) July 22, 2023
“Good evening from Austin, where two driverless cars have shut down one of the main intersections,” Downen wrote in his first tweet. The accompanying video shows two Cruise vehicles. One has pulled into the intersection and is blocking the one-way traffic coming down Seventh Street. Another was parked diagonally across the farthest right-hand lane of Seventh. Both vehicles had their hazard lights flashing.
The Daily Dot has reached out to Mr. Downen via email for further comment.
Cruise, a General Motors affiliate based out of San Francisco, began offering its robot-taxi services in Austin in December of last year. The cars used by the company are equipped with sensors, cameras, radar, and lidar that allow the vehicle to operate autonomously. The company currently has 300 cars in operation, including those in San Francisco, Austin, and Phoenix.
On Dec. 12, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration opened preliminary investigation PE22-014 into Cruise’s activities. The investigation stated that Cuises AVs may have engaged “in inappropriately hard braking or [became] immobilized.” The investigation is ongoing.
In a written statement sent to techcrunch.com, Cruise spokesperson Hannah Lindow stated that “Cruise’s safety record is publicly reported and includes having driven nearly 700,000 fully autonomous miles in an extremely complex urban environment with zero life-threatening injuries or fatalities,” adding that the company was fully cooperating with the NHTSA’s investigation.
According to a follow-up tweet by Downen, “They eventually figured out how to turn left, but it took a while. Came back outside an hour later and there was a new one stuck in the same spot.”
Twitter user Gyaru Brian Williams also wrote in the responses “It is absolutely WILD that these things have been allowed on public roads without even a single congressional hearing. Who gave a computer a driver’s license?”
Another Austinite tweeted in response that “There were also two on Guadalupe trying to go into a road closed for construction”
And user @crazynate999 added that this was “The future SKYNET imagined…”
The Daily Dot has reached out to Cruise via email for response.