When transit systems experience delays, the reason usually isn't very interesting: congested streets, medical emergencies, mechanical problems. But the cause of a recent holdup on San Francisco's MUNI system at least had the virtue of being novel.
On Sept. 30 at around 11 p.m., an N Line streetcar ground to a halt at the intersection of Carl Street and Cole Street because an autonomous vehicle from Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, had halted on the streetcar tracks and wouldn't budge. According to the city's transportation department, the 140 passengers riding the N line that evening were stuck in place for seven minutes before a Cruise employee arrived and moved the driverless conveyance. (Cruise did not respond to questions about what happened that night.)
This incident, which was not reported in the media at the time, is one of many in which autonomous vehicles roaming San Francisco's streets have disrupted the city's transportation network. In April, a Cruise vehicle blocked a travel lane needed by a siren-blaring fire engine, delaying its arrival at a three-alarm fire. Last fall, dozens of self-driving cars from Google's Waymo subsidiary drove daily into a quiet cul-de-sac before turning around, much to the frustration of nearby residents.
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