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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    I assume that one day the ‘not quite ready for primetime’ autonomous cars will prevail but until that day they should stay off already clogged city streets. In my long ago youth if I found a driverless car blocking my way I literally would have (and did) punted it out of my way. And if I was driving a emergency vehicle to an emergency you better believe that autonomous car would be nothing but road trash.

    I guess this editorial was written just before the driverless car drove into some freshly poured cement. I would love to see the explanation for that one!

    “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 . . .”
    This week, 40,000 car owners and a MILLION people who love to put their hands on a steering wheel and their right foot on an accelerator pedal are converging on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue for the annual Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise, that wild and wacky tribute to everything automotive!

    Yeah good point. Love Woodward and went last year. Bummer that I can’t be in two places at once…

    I can’t wait for driverless cars. Imagine all the folks who would rather be doing literally anything other than driving *not* having to drive anymore. Sure, the hair-pulling frustration is spiking now, but think of the dividends this will return when a huge chunk of the cell-phone users, kid-swatters, etc. don’t have to drive anymore (aka: create the headaches that most of us HDC weirdos would complain about.)

    Points, condensers, dwell meters, timing lights. Long may they live! You have to think to use them. Autonomous people don’t have to think. That’s what they want…

    Larry – Great article! Elections have consequence be they local, state or federal. Will gas for the classics, muscle cars, soon be outlawed along with freedom of driving anywhere in your own car?

    Don C.

    What’s not appearing on Hagerty’s radar screen is this weekend’s Woodward Dream cruise. The worlds largest collection of classic cars estimated over 40,000 and 1 million people in attendance. The one day event on August 19, brings cars in from as far away as Australia and Japan. I think Hagerty readers would love to find out what their missing.

    Easy: Hagerty couldn’t “buy” the Dream Cruise like they did everything else, so it is largely ignored.

    Not to mention, the people at Hagerty like to think that they’re above a bunch of plebs driving their muscle cars. It’s all about exotics and blue chip collectibles in CA.

    How are they supposed to cover an un-organized, semi-official traffic jam that hasn’t happened yet? Maybe there is something planned for after, like how most event coverage designed to show people what they missed.

    Also, don’t people still cruise Woodward most Fridays? I’ve never quite understood the obsession with traffic that drives Woodward fanatics. It’s a neat gathering, but its also just the worst version of a car show.

    Aw, resistance to change never dies. Autonomous vehicles are the future. They are safer and more efficient. Relax. Those of us who love oir classic cars will still be able to enjoy them. Dont feed the fears.

    Was just in SF driving around for a couple days. Driverless taxis just stop in the middle of traffic lanes for no apparent reason and sit, perhaps waiting for a fare? Following traffic has to go into oncoming traffic lanes to pass.

    This is a great start! Autonomous vehicles is just a plot for Silicon Valley to monetize still more of our lives–our movements, our eyeballs when we’re stuck bored stiff in a pod, etc. Given the enormous computer power needed for autonomous driving, the cost of transportation can only go up. Shoshanna Zuboff of Harvard is the expert on surveillance capitalism.

    If people want to drive their own cars there will be a market to serve and automakers are not going to leave that money behind! But lots of people cannot drive and they need to get around just like everyone else. Wouldn’t it be nice if the unfit drivers had another option? I bet the cars will drive themselves better than that.

    I too live in San Francisco and agree with Georg on many points.
    Right around the time that Lyft/Uber started up, we saw the level of driver ability in San Francisco plummet – drivers earning extra money came from all over and had no clue where they were without staring at their phones while driving. We always have tourists, but this was a huge onslaught of distracted and unfamiliar drivers.
    Shortly thereafter, Cruise started putting their cars on the road, then Waymo, and even though they had drivers, they were a bunch of lost puppies wandering all over town. I’ve done my part in teaching them, with the 2″ pass and the horn-blaring-mirror-filler. Cruise has not officially thanked me yet, but here’s how I will feel re-paid for my efforts: I’ll get to ride in the damn things! I won’t have to listen to whatever horrible music my Lyft driver listens to while being choked by their 7 Hawaiian Breeze air-fresheners as I question their every misguided driving decision. There won’t be a driver, and arguing with an algorithm is the first stage of mental illness.
    So, hopefully our (poorly) elected leaders will stop the pearl-clutching and let San Francisco have it’s due – they’ve been clogging the streets for 5 years, why stop now!

    I would never put my life in the hands of a chip. Self drive technology is absurd, dangerous, and generally stupid. Self drive is for people who won’t take responsibility for the concept of driving themselves. It’s another
    manifestation of the current social and intellectual illiteracy.

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