A New Tourist Attraction: Driverless Cars

Image: Wired

By Aarav Sapra

Self-driving cars are one of the newest types of technology that will one day reshape the norm of driving. Robotaxis or autonomous vehicles have been eminent through the San Francisco streets, with some corporations starting up in 2009, while others have just started operating commercially since last August. This technology accomplishes the satisfaction of not having to drive, yet it has become the city’s latest tourist attraction. Individuals like Mr. De Clerq, who owns multiple restaurants and spends most of his time traveling, states that he loves exploring new things and is enthusiastic to try a ride from a robotaxi.

While autonomous vehicle companies like Cruise or Nuro have dominated and proliferated in the technology in recent years, Waymo, which Alphabet owns, strives for a premium self-driving electric car that primarily serves for transportation services. Waymo is slowly expanding its network, with some operating in the Phoenix Metro Area and Los Angeles. The car is a Jaguar I-PACE outfitted with radar, lidar, sensors, and internal and external cameras. An app is responsible for unlocking the car when it arrives and playing music during your ride. Four seats are available for passengers, but you cannot sit in the driver’s seat; otherwise, the car will not move. In addition, a real-life customer support team remotely monitors the ride for unsafe activity and is available if assistance is needed. According to safety data from the company, Waymo’s technology is significantly safer than human drivers. Nevertheless, public backlash will persist regardless how breathtaking the technology is. For instance, California State suspended Cruise’s vehicles from operating on the streets of San Francisco after an incident in which a pedestrian was hit and dragged under a vehicle. There have been regular complaints of Waymo cars blocking traffic and emergency vehicle crashes, primarily involving stationary objects or reports stating that the car was driving on the wrong side of the road, eventually leading to federal investigations.

In recent years, San Francisco has gotten a bad rep for visitors due to its high crime rates and arguably low quality of life. However, technological startups are likely to improve the future, just like autonomous vehicles, which all serve as a reminder that San Francisco is also a place living a few years into the future technologically. In conclusion, the company Waymo has been described as seamless because of how easy it is to get a ride, but perhaps what’s noteworthy is that locals in the community have seemed to get used to the driverless cars and, just as expected, they are starting to become a norm in the city of San Francisco. The future of driverless vehicles is unknown, but the vast growth in this technology is likely to replace the average driver on the street right now.