The great promise of self-driving cars is that they will save innumerable lives by removing the most fallible and unpredictable element from vehicle traffic: the human.
But in San Francisco at least, fickle human behavior is taking a stand.
Two of the six collisions involving autonomous vehicles in California so far this year involved humans colliding with self-driving cars, apparently on purpose, according to incident reports collected by the California department of motor vehicles.
On 10 January, a pedestrian in San Francisco’s Mission District ran across the street to confront a GM Cruise autonomous vehicle that was waiting for people to cross the road, according to an incident report filed by the car company. The pedestrian was “shouting”, the report states, and “struck the left side of the Cruise AV’s rear bumper and hatch with his entire body”.
No injuries occurred, but the car’s left tail light was damaged.
In a separate incident just a few blocks away on 28 January, a taxi driver in San Francisco got out of his car, approached a GM Cruise autonomous vehicle and “slapped the front passenger window, causing a scratch”.
The police were not called in either case.
The two human-on-robot assaults are not the first time San Franciscans have fought back – physically – against robots.