AUSTIN (KXAN) — On a busy Saturday night near the University of Texas at Austin campus, a UT student caught a unique traffic jam on camera — at least 20 Cruise driverless cars at San Gabriel and 23rd streets.
“It was Saturday night on a home game. So there were a lot of people trying to leave West Campus. There’s a bunch of drunk college students out, you know,” said Nico Prada.
Prada is a civil engineering student, specializing in transportation. He isn’t against driverless cars but is not comfortable with them in such a busy area of Austin.
“From a pedestrian in West Campus, they’re not great to interact with. But I mean, I’m sure at some point, the technology will get there,” said Prada.
Nico posted the videos and photos he took on social media. One of many recent posts that caught the attention of Austin City Council Member Zo Qadri.
“The idea behind them is great. But I think it’s definitely not ready for primetime quite yet. The last thing I want to see is someone getting hit by a car, whether a pedestrian or cyclist, and get injured,” said Qadri.
Qadri is working with fellow council members to address the issues in the Austin Mobility Committee next month.
“I would hope the state is able to kind of come in and help out with a lot of these concerns,” said Qadri.
The City of Austin is currently limited by the state’s transportation code, which states, “A political subdivision of this state or a state agency may not impose a franchise or other regulation related to the operation of an automated motor vehicle or automated driving system.”
“So there’s no way for us to regulate it. But I think having a conversation with our state, you know, counterparts is extremely important for me, for them to kind of raise the alarm bells on this. And I think it’s extremely important for constituents,” said Qadri.
As a constituent who has a car but rarely uses it, Prada is concerned for his safety.
“You’re taught, when you’re riding a bike that you have to make eye contact with the driver, or when you’re crossing the street, you have to make eye contact with the driver at every stop sign intersection. You can’t really do that with a Cruise car. There’s no driver, it’s just an empty seat. So it’s kind of hard to predict what they’re going to do at an intersection,” said Qadri.
Cruise provided KXAN with a statement about the incident saying, “We prioritize safety in everything we do. It was a crowded, challenging environment; and, there was no pedestrian, vehicle or property damage. We fully recognize the inconvenience, and we’ve taken proactive measures to relieve the crowding in the area.”