Never Stop Driving #62: Autonomous rejection


I didn’t see the fight coming. This past week, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a resolution to allow Waymo and Cruise to increase driverless taxi services. The two companies, which face huge pressure to show that the billions invested in autonomous technology will someday return profits, can now operate robotaxis 24 hours a day and charge for the service. Not so fast, responded San Francisco, the city that will be most impacted by the ruling. The SF city attorney is likely to petition the state to revisit the resolution.

The day after the ruling, 10 driverless taxis suddenly stopped working in the city’s North Beach neighborhood, clogging streets like a cork in a bottle. Naturally, bystanders filmed the chaos. The problem reportedly was an overtaxed cellphone network caused by a nearby concert. “I know this is the way the tech is going,” San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson told The Washington Post, “and this is the way the industry is going, and that’s fine, but don’t shove it down our throats.” Safety officials are concerned that disabled robotaxis could prevent emergency vehicles from responding.

Autonomous technology is proving to be the disruptor we all knew it would be. Since human drivers also create plenty of chaos, the question remains whether robotaxis are better or worse. That’s the experiment playing out in San Fran. I assumed that the tech industry’s home would be more welcoming. Clearly, I was wrong. And although we certainly can expect many more twists and turns in this experiment, our collective fears that we would no longer be able to drive cars ourselves seem far less acute than five years ago.

This week, thousands of people who love to put their hands on a steering wheel and their right foot on an accelerator pedal are converging on California’s Monterey Peninsula for the annual collector car festivities that are capped by the Pebble Beach Concours on Sunday (check out our live broadcast on our Facebook page). I’m one of them and even if I can’t afford the pristine vehicles arrayed on the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links, the fun of Monterey Car Week is that no matter where you go, you’l stumble across interesting cars, often parked on the street. And if, like me, you enjoy watching other people spend big piles of their money, the high-end car auctions at Monterey usually result in headline sales, which we’ll examine in detail at

Ever wonder how horsepower is made? This week we debuted a video showing how Hagerty’s Davin Reckow increased the horsepower of the V-8 he rebuilt for the 1937 Ford Snowball dirt-track racer. I hope you find it as fascinating as I do. We also covered this year’s record attempts at the Bonneville Salt Flats and a homebuilt car that resembles the Tesla Cybertruck.

Have a great weekend!

P.S.: Your feedback is very welcome. Comment below!

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    The prevailing attitude about most things in the USA (at least with clear-thinking people) is, “don’t shove ___________ down our throats” – which is a clear indicator that we still believe in being a free country! Change will come, whether in cell phones, music, or automobiles – but let the market forces dictate when and how much the public will accept.

    The problem with this push to electrify and make autonomous our modes of transportation is that technology is not perfected and advanced enough to ensure these situations won’t occur. Crashes, shutdowns, miscalculations, and worst of all…uncontrollable fires, are plaguing the industry. We must step back and reassess the entire redesign of our vehicles, and stop this “rush to get the product to market so we can recoup our expenditures” mentality. Governments have, and not unjustifiably so, been passing regulations to help clean up our environment, and this push to meet deadlines has also fueled this headlong rush to meet those deadlines. Unfortunately, we consumers end up facing the recalls, breakdowns, and other problems associated with electric vehicles. As for autonomous vehicles grinding to a stop en-masse…these unforeseen events will occur occasionally, but they must not become commonplace.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ll get in a driverless car when I see approves driverless propane tankers and school buses sharing the road. Until then if you get in a driverless car you’re nothing more than a Guinea Pig.

    I am waiting for the day when an autonomous vehicle crashes into a priceless classic at Pebble Beach or Amelia Island.

    What exactly happened within the past 5 years to make you think a driverless future is less of a possibility? Some lobbying by San Franciscans who usually do everything (including public sanitiation) the least efficient way possible? Was it being locked in your home (or at least locked out of a reason to leave home)? The pleas not to charge you EV during hot weather? Protestors in Europe throwing soup and gluing themselves to the pavement? The social acceptence of just having everything from prepared food to adult diapers dropped on your porch?

    I wish I could read the same rejection of “virtual life” in the tea leaves you’re using. All I see is growing acceptence of the matrix.

    Your comment that a homebuilt car could have inspired the Cybertruck should be amended. The article was very clear that Bill Papke was inspired by the Cybertruck, not the other way around.

    Correct MGW. As was clearly stated by Bill Papke in the introduction to this article. He says he was inspired by Elon Musk’s design.

    When you continue voting for one party rule don’t complain about the controlling consequences. Seems like CA residents like being told what to do. If you despise the other party, and I can’t blame you, do something. Vote third party or Libertarian and send a message you are not bending over any more.

    I’m no Luddite but I resist change and new tech as much as anybody. When i think of driving I’m on an open country road, winding through the foothills with the top down or sunroof open. I’ll take a driverless taxi over driving congested city streets and searching for parking any day. There is a time and a place for everything.

    I don’t think that the residents of SanFran should be too worried because they, and most of the rest of the non druggie / alcoholic population that appears to be taking over the city, will have moved on to pastures new judging by the reports that we are getting here in UK.

    Can we call San Francisco by it’s proper name and not San Fran or Frisco. I’m looking at you too Larry.

    What is the purpose of a driverless car? If you don’t want to drive, take a ride-share or the bus!
    We often drive for the pleasure of driving, the ones that don’t like driving typically takes some form of mass transit.

    Talking San Francisco specifically -robotaxis are the least concerning problem for that city. The city is actually being allowed to rot from the inside out and we’re thinking good decisions will prevail with regulators? I would be much more concerned with the other social decay issues going on in the city over Robotaxi invasion when it comes to impact on my love to drive. Silver lining – at least the city is a perfect test bed for all sorts of situations for perfecting the technology. Who knows, San Francisco could be ahead of the curve for the rest of the country once again, and this is a perfect spot to train the fleet for future use.

    I actually live in San Francisco. On our street, cars speed down the hill all the time. Busting through stop lights, ignoring traffic signs, sometimes gunning up the hill passing us recklessly when we try to turn into our driveway. Or revving their engines at 2am just for the fun of it.

    The driverless cars never do that.

    They’re the only ones actually slowing down when driving by the little “slow down person” we put on the side of the road.
    They wait for you when you pull out of the driveway. They don’t bust through the stop sign. They never honk at you just for trying to get home. They’re all electric, and actually keep street noise down.

    They are by far more polite, safe, and aware of what’s going on around them than the average regular driver.

    I’ve become a fan.

    Well, yeah, but that is actually a commercial for replacing all humans who are jerks with some sort of AI machine, isn’t it? I wasn’t aware that the best sales case for autonomous vehicles was because some people are rude, incautious, or poorly raised. Also, I (maybe unrealistically, as I don’t live in that city) believed that all of those driving “issues” mentioned were supposed to be corrected by law enforcement, not creating driverless cars.

    Great bit of thought. Keep at it. I worry more about finding 94 Octane to keep the old gal running a few years from now.
    A ‘64 Canadian Galaxie Ragtop owner.

    Although I am definitely an auto junkie and love driving, I think that most people would be safer in autonomous vehicles (if/when they are perfected). Also, the ideal solution for the homebound senior (my Dad, also a car enthusiast, lost his interest in life when he had to give up driving at age 99).

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