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I boarded a Robotaxi. To do it without worrying too much, I turned to an American colleague who had already tried it. The new frontier of public transport that has become a reality in the United States, especially in San Francisco, where the Public Services Commission had authorized the two companies that manage the service, Cruise and Waymo, to circulate their vehicles in more time slots large initials as well as in several areas and allowing to start introducing a fare, given that so far the rides are still free.
A few too many unforeseen events in the experimental phase
Before extending the timetables and circulation areas of Robotaxis, the Public Services Commission listened to numerous testimonies from citizens, including those who opposed and favored public transport without a driver. In fact, in recent months, several motorists have protested about alleged safety concerns related to the service of driverless vehicles. After all, there was no shortage of unforeseen events, such as sudden stops, collisions with fire hydrants along the sidewalks, as well as stops in the middle of the cycle path and obstacles to emergency vehicles
To call it as well as to start it, an app is enough
To call a Robotaxi Waymo or Cruise you need to download the companies’ apps. Currently, both apps are still in trial mode, which requires an invite code to be able to use them. If as in my case I got it, calling a robotaxi is very similar to calling an Uber, although there are some differences. After your Waymo or Cruise has arrived, you always have to use the app to unlock the door. So once you get on board, always press on the app or on a screen inside, to start the ride.
First impressions guide aboard the Robotaxi
And we come to the impressions reported in our test, albeit brief. Driving was very slow as well as overly cautious, especially on the many inclines and often steep inclines encountered in the San Francisco metropolitan area. The Robotaxi slows almost to a stop at the top of each hill it encounters, even if the traffic light is green, resulting in the feeling of wanting to make sure you see especially passing pedestrians even if caution has in some cases seemed really far too excessive.
It never stops at the requested stop but a little further on
Another problem is to stop at the programmed destination. Often, in fact, the point of arrival is exceeded even if not by much and even if the system is reprogrammed there is no way to get to the right point. In some cases, the emergency lane confuses the Robotaxi which stops, creating serious obstacles to the circulation of the vehicles traveling there. The reactions of pedestrians to the Robotaxis in circulation should also be taken into account, which however are part of the fun of being able to use one as a preview on the streets of San Francisco.