Multiple driverless Cruise cars block traffic in San Francisco

Photo of Amanda Bartlett
A driverless Cruise vehicle in downtown San Francisco.?

A driverless Cruise vehicle in downtown San Francisco.?

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LATEST Sept. 27, 3:50 p.m. In a statement Tuesday, the California Public Utilities Commission told SFGATE it was aware of incidents of driverless Cruise vehicles blocking traffic in San Francisco last week.

"We are working with the [autonomous vehicle] companies to understand their frequency, location, and the conditions under which they occur," a spokesperson for the CPUC said. "In general, if an AV company violates their permit conditions, the CPUC has the authority to suspend or revoke their operating authority."?

Sept. 26, 12:50 p.m. At least three driverless Cruise cars were responsible for holding up traffic and reportedly blocking a bus lane in San Francisco last week, the latest in a string of incidents involving the locally headquartered self-driving car company.??

A video shared on Reddit showed two of Cruise’s vehicles at a standstill Thursday evening, near the intersection of Sacramento and Leavenworth streets, with their hazard lights flashing. A Muni bus appeared to be stalled about a block behind them.? ?

“Come on, we’ve got to get the f—k going,” one person could be heard yelling in the background of the video.

“There’s no driver!” another responded.

Another Cruise car caused a similar disruption near the corner of Geary Boulevard and Franklin Street that same evening at approximately 10:19 p.m., per KRON4. The autonomous vehicle reportedly veered into a bus lane and stopped mere inches away from a Muni bus, forcing the driver to reroute and maneuver around it. The outlet reported that yet another Cruise car halted in the middle of the road at Sacramento and Mason streets, with its lights flashing and music piping out from the radio.?

Drew Pusateri, a spokesperson for Cruise, told SFGATE that the cars stopped due to “a technical issue.” A team from the tech company, which is based in San Francisco, was dispatched to recover each vehicle and arrived within 20 minutes of the disruptions.?

“Safety is the guiding principle of everything we do,” Pusateri said in a statement. “That means if our cars encounter a situation where they aren’t able to safely proceed, they stop and turn on their hazard lights, and we either get them operating again or pick them up as quickly as possible. This could be because of a mechanical issue like a flat tire, a road condition, or a technical problem. We’re working to minimize how often this happens, and apologize to anyone impacted.”

There were no collisions or injuries, Pusateri said.?

The news comes after nearly 20 of Cruise’s driverless cars blocked traffic for two hours on the corner of Gough and Fulton streets in San Francisco last July. The cars also obstructed a fire truck responding to an emergency in May, as Wired reported, leading to a delayed response that resulted in property damage and personal injuries, authorities said. One Cruise car even became the subject of a viral video last April after police pulled it over for not using its headlights — and subsequently sped away from them.

When asked for comment on the incidents, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said it did not have regulatory authority over Cruise vehicles and referred SFGATE to the California Public Utilities Commission for more information, which did not respond by time of publication.?

The San Francisco Police Department said it did not receive any reports of the incidents.