Cruise robotaxis cluster up to block San Francisco street for hours


As a site for driving enthusiasts, we have to admit to a small bit of schadenfreude when the robots stumble in their inexorable march toward an autonomous future.

For some reason that may be known only to a line of code deep in their chassis, a number of GM Cruise autonomous vehicles — at least eight of them, from the looks of it — "decided" that they would all congregate on one street corner in San Francisco late Tuesday night. Were they planning to hit the bars after their shift ends? Plotting the robot revolution? Or was it just a strange glitch?

Cruise has been operating a robotaxi service in San Francisco, though the training wheels on the operation had only recently come off: Cruise went fully driverless with its commercial robotaxi service just a week or so ago. Its driverless operations are limited to between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., which explains why the Cruise caucus happened in the wee hours.

The cars all got together at Gough and Fulton Streets, not far from City Hall. And there they were stuck, for about two hours, blocking traffic, until they were either removed by human drivers or were electronically prodded to leave.

“We had an issue earlier this week that caused some of our vehicles to cluster together," a Cruise spokesperson said. "While it was resolved and no passengers were impacted, we apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced.”

Without further elaboration from the company, we're left to our imaginations about what caused the Cruise cohort / coven / convention / coterie. One can probably assume that a failsafe mode for these cars, when faced with a difficult situation, is simply to stop. So we could assume that one Cruise stopped for some reason, and as the rest came along, they stopped along it. But the possible explanations are as copious as the code that drives these things.

You may recall that back in April, a San Francisco police officer pulled a driverless Cruise car over, an incident that got funnier when the car then halfheartedly tried to flee.