At two in the morning, the first car’s loud, high-pitched buzz shook Jennifer King up. She claims that it made a hovercraft-like sound, but that wasn’t the strange part. King resides on a dead-end street near the Presidio, a 1,500-acre park in San Francisco where there is no through traffic. She looked out and noticed a white Jaguar SUV pulling out of her driveway. It was covered in a laser sensor that resembled a huge fan and had the Waymo logo, which represents Google’s division for driverless cars.
She noticed what appeared to be a software error in the self-driving car: the vehicle appeared to be making a three-point turn on her property. If it had only happened once, she claims, it would not have been a huge deal.
King contacted Google to protest the traffic, but the K-turns persisted. A small line of the SUVs would occasionally form, resembling an army of undead driver’s education students. This would occasionally happen. Until King called the neighborhood CBS affiliate in October of last year, when a news crew broadcast the scene, the situation continued for weeks. The report opened with the statement, “It is kind of comical when you see it. And the nearby residents have noticed. King’s driveway soon after belonged to her once more.
Waymo disagrees that its technology was ineffective and claims that its cars had been “obeying the same traffic laws that any car is supposed to observe.” The business, like its competitors in Silicon Valley and Detroit, has described occurrences like this as isolated bumps in the path to a world without steering wheels. Over more than a decade, showy demonstrations from businesses like Google, GM, Ford, Tesla, and Zoox have promised automobiles capable of driving themselves through hectic urban environments, on highways, and in adverse weather conditions without any human input or supervision. The businesses claim they are close to abolishing traffic jams, rush-hour deaths, and parking lots as well as upending the $2 trillion global car sector.