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 Insider.Hagerty.com.
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!
Please share this newsletter with your car-obsessed friends and encourage them to sign up for the free weekly email. The easy-to-complete form is here. And if you’d like to support the efforts of Hagerty Media, please considering joining the Hagerty Drivers Club.