AUSTIN (KXAN) — Driverless vehicles have caused complications along Austin’s streets this summer.
These Cruise cars drive only at night with their bright lights, slowed speeds and nobody behind the wheel.
Raina Hornaday lives in a quiet and quaint neighborhood in west Austin.
Yet, in the middle of the night, her street becomes crowded with driverless cars.
“I see them all night long with their blinkers and hazards on, just all around my neighborhood,” Hornaday said.
She said the robotic technology has been “disruptive” near her home, ever since the autonomous vehicles started driving through her neighborhood back in May.
“Last night I counted 25 cars within 20 minutes,” Hornaday said. “It’s a lot of unnecessary commotion.”
Michael Staples is Cruise’s general manager for the Austin market.
He said these robotaxis are limited to driving a certain speed, meaning only certain streets are accessible on their routes.
“Ultimately our vehicles can only travel at about 25 miles an hour right now,” Staples said. “If you think about what roads are 25 miles an hour, that’s where we’re driving right now.
He also added that there’s a need for this type of transportation when it comes to safety.
“Cruise vehicles are safer than humans,” Staples said. “We don’t drink and drive, we don’t get tired and we follow the rules on the road.”
Travis County Judge Andy Brown recently took a test drive in a Cruise car.
He said his vehicle stopped in the middle of Duval Street in downtown Austin.
“There’s no city, county or anything that’s regulating them or overseeing what they’re doing,” Brown said. “The fact that it’s in a testing phase but there’s no safeguard of a human in the front seat does concern me.”
After speaking with a remote operator, Brown’s Cruise car quickly straightened itself out before dropping him off at his final destination.
“At the end of the day, we’re not perfect,” Staples said.
“There will be situations where our vehicles will experience something uncertain. When it doesn’t know what to do, it goes into default to the safest action, which is pulling over.”
Despite these roadblocks, Cruise plans to expand its services beyond downtown Austin.
The driverless ride-hailing company backed by General Motors will roll out self-driving cars in Dallas and Houston by the end of the year.
We could also soon see the Cruise Origin, a small bus-like vehicle that can transport up to six people without a driver or steering wheel.
“People will say they’re never going to get in a car with the robot. But as soon as they get in one and have that experience, they’ll realize that this is the way of the future,” Staples concluded.
To try out a Cruise car yourself, you can join the waitlist.
Rides are offered between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.