All haters of the ersatz training course for robot cars that San Francisco's streets have become are having a field day with a new video, posted earlier this month, showing an autonomous Cruise taxi in the Richmond District getting pulled over by the SFPD, and there's no safety driver inside.
A video posted to Instagram on April 1 — which was no April Fool's joke — shows the SF cops attempting a traffic stop on Clement Street. As The Verge reports, via a Cruise spokesperson, the cops had seen the GM-owned Cruise vehicle go by without its headlights on, and it's clearly dark outside.
"Ain't nobody in it!" says someone from the sidewalk, as the officer approaches the driver's-side window to see for himself. People sitting in nearby parklets and out on the street can be heard laughing.
The officer looks to be trying to open the driver's-side door, but it's locked, so he turns to go back to the police car and the Cruise vehicle takes off! Well, it actually just accelerates through the nearby intersection and then pulls to one side with its hazards on.
According to Cruise spokesperson Aaron Mclear, this may not be the first time the cops have pulled over one of these driverless cars.
"The vehicle yielded to the police car, then pulled over to the nearest safe location for the traffic stop,” Mclear tells The Verge. “An officer contacted Cruise personnel and no citation was issued. We work closely with the SFPD on how to interact with our vehicles and have a dedicated phone number for them to call in situations like this."
Mclear also said that the issue with the headlights has been resolved.
It's only been two months since Cruise and Waymo were granted permits by the state to start operating paid, autonomous taxi service in San Francisco — but Cruise's permit is only for the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and the cars can't exceed 30 miles per hour. (Waymo's cars can get on the freeway and go up to 65 mph.) In the case of both permits, when there are passengers onboard, there still have to be safety drivers at the wheel. But in February, Cruise started putting people on the waitlist to get free rides in test taxis that are fully driverless.
But even if the SFPD has received some heads-up about the driverless cars on the street, this incident is raising some alarm bells — and would any human driver ever pull away from a cop and got through an intersection in order to pull over somewhere better?
"Clearly the police were confused they didn’t know what to do," said Stanford University professor Ronjon Nag, speaking to NBC Bay Area. "We need to have processes and protocols and standards where cars can communicate. Maybe there's a switch where the cars can be stopped by the police."