Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Swerving And Hesitating

Programming these cars to not hit things, at least while they're traveling fairly slowly, isn't hard. The narrow focus on this kind of "safety" is there precisely because it isn't really the hard part.

In recent months, Cruise has been ramping up testing efforts in a roughly 20-square-mile area in and around downtown San Francisco. Sources familiar with that testing effort told The Information's Amir Efrati that Cruise vehicles still had significant limitations.

"Cruise cars frequently swerve and hesitate," Efrati reports. "They sometimes slow down or stop if they see a bush on the side of a street or a lane-dividing pole, mistaking it for an object in their path." In one case, Efrati says, Cruise employees trimmed a bush ahead of a demonstration for journalists to make sure the car wouldn't swerve while driving past it.

Cruise employees have the option of riding in Cruise vehicles as they travel around San Francisco, but there's a big downside to doing so: self-driving car rides are often slower than a ride in a human vehicle—sometimes as much as 10 to 20 minutes slower. A big reason for that: "some San Francisco intersections and streets are 'blacklisted,' in some cases temporarily, and the cars must take circuitous routes around them."

An intersection might be blacklisted because its traffic light is too faint, because it has a complex roundabout, or because it requires a difficult lane merge.

But they're cool.