In August, California regulators gave the go-ahead to allow General Motors’ Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo to send their driverless vehicles onto the roads of San Francisco 24/7, collecting fares for rides. Proponents heralded the moment as a breakthrough that took years of research and hundreds of millions of dollars.
Even if some of the robotaxis haplessly drove into wet concrete or were disabled by activists lobbing traffic cones, evangelists felt vindicated in their belief that a future with no human-operated cars was nigh.
“It was clear they were juggernauts, and there wasn’t much that anyone could say or do that was going to change that,” Phil Koopman, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University specializing in autonomous vehicle safety, told The Standard. “The question was: Would they scale slow enough to keep certain things under control, or would they be too aggressive?”