Self-Driving Cars Are Having Trouble with a San Francisco Street

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A dead-end street in San Francisco, California seems to be attracting a lot of self-driving cars. It’s happening on 15th Avenue in the city’s Richmond District. Residents are getting used to seeing the Waymo cars drive down the road before turning around again.
Some days, there are even as many as 50 self-driving cars coming down the street before turning around—and typically a self-driving car comes down the street about every five minutes, according to CBS News.
Cars driving down a San Francisco street
San Francisco is home to many confusing streets, and self-driving cars are having a hard time.

Self-driving cars in San Francisco

In August, Waymo launched its robotaxi service for certain vetted riders in San Francisco, according to TechCrunch. Waymo is a self-driving vehicle company under Alphabet.
The service kicked off with the company’s fleet of all-electric Jaguar I-PACEs equipped with Waymo’s fifth generation of its autonomous vehicle system—which is reportedly informed by 20 million self-driven miles on public roads and more than 10 billion miles driven in simulation.
For this service, Waymo employs human safety operators, or “autonomous specialists,” who sit in the front seat to monitor the ride and make sure it’s safe. 

What’s going on with these self-driving cars?

As for the self-driving cars coming down 15th Avenue, they don’t often have passengers, according to street residents. 
As CBS News reported, a Waymo spokesperson says the company continually adjusts to “dynamic San Francisco road rules” and claims the city’s Slow Streets initiative as the reason so many self-driving cars are going down the street so often. 
San Francisco’s Slow Streets program aims to limit traffic on certain residential streets so that they can also be used by people traveling by foot and by bicycle, says SFMTA
So according to the Waymo spokesperson, cars traveling North of California on 15th Ave have to take a u-turn due to the presence of Slow Streets signage on a nearby street. That would mean the Waymo Driver is likely obeying the same road rules that any car is required to follow.

Are there problems with the technology behind self-driving cars?

While it may be true that the Waymo cars in San Francisco are only attempting to follow local traffic rules, other recent incidents involving self-driving cars indicate the technology may not yet be perfect. 
According to CNN Business, Waymo self-driving cars in Arizona get confused by rainy days and puddles—so much so that for those days, Waymo has to use older cars with a human driver behind the wheel. 
In addition, trips with Waymo are reportedly longer and less direct than using Uber or Lyft. Waymo vehicles don’t use shared turning lanes, which forces them to sometimes take longer routes—like making three right turns instead of one left, for instance. 
But still, some customers in Arizona reported they are happy with the self-driving car service, according to CNN Business. 
Tesla has also come under fire lately for its cars being involved in accidents when allegedly in autopilot mode. However, this is not exactly the same as a self-driving car, as drivers are urged to still pay attention and keep hands on the wheel when Tesla’s autopilot is engaged. 
When it comes to the Waymo self-driving car incident in San Francisco, however, Tesla may have gotten the last laugh. When the story was posted on Twitter, Tesla CEO Elon Muskresponded with a simple: “Haha.”

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