Without Driver, But With Coyotes: First Ride in a Cruise Robotaxi Through San Francisco

Tuesday night was the night. I rode in one of Cruise’s fleet of driverless robotaxis in San Francisco for the first time. Thanks to an Austrian friend who already had access to the Cruise app, we hopped into one of the driverless cars at around 11 p.m., went out for a few drinks, and then headed back in another Cruise robotaxi, again driverless.

Here is the first video with some driverless Cruises we saw while waiting for ours. Also watch out for minute 7:56 to see the coyotes.

Our first robot cab was named ‘Dragonfly’. Each of the cruise vehicles has its own name, which is how you recognize them. After requesting it on the app, we waited a few minutes, already seeing other driverless Cruise cruising around us, as well as Waymos. And then we got on for the first 12-minute ride from Haight-Ashbury to Fillmore Street, where we then had a few drinks at a karaoke bar in Japantown.

The video has some gaps because my iPhone inexplicably kept interrupting the video recording. Probably because I have a 4K video setting, which it then thinks it has to interrupt because of file length or something. Or maybe I have just sausage fingers. Anyway, here’s the first ride with our comments in German.

Remarkable was on the one hand a hesitation of the vehicle when a pedestrian thought he had to cross the road in front of us at a red light, on the other hand almost at the end of the trip – a few feet were missing to our drop off point – when a vehicle blocked the lane because of loading activities. The Cruise didn’t know how to react. Anyway, we called the operation center, spoke to an operator, and then got out of the vehicle.

Otherwise, the ride is without much excitement – as it should be. Although I was excited the first few minutes, you quickly calm down. The vehicle always behaves safely and you begin to trust it very quickly. We also met other driverless Cruise-Robotaxis and Waymos, as well as two coyotes (from minute 7:55 in the video), which were in the middle of the night in San Francisco and ran twice in front of our camera lens.

The return trip itself was a bit shorter than the outward trip at 11 minutes, and again we encountered several Waymos and Cruises. Our vehicle was called ‘Scampi’.

You can get used to such rides very quickly and imagine that robotaxis, autonomous cars and other driverless systems will be driving around all our cities very soon. We have already experienced the future today, no one would ever want to drive themselves again for regular commutes or after a nice dinner, especially after having a little buzz after our visit to the bar.

This article was also published in German.

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