Q: As my wife was taking a video of a driverless car cruising down the street in San Francisco, I wondered about driverless cars and 2+ HOV lanes. Are these cars aware of the lane limitations?
When there are no passengers, I would think that they cannot use 2+ HOV lanes. What if they only have one passenger? Do they get credit for the “driver” who is not a person, or do they need 2 passengers?
Also, I recently referenced your column about school traffic during drop-off in response to a friend’s Facebook post about what a mess school drop-off had been.
A: I do not know but checked with John-the-MTC-spokesman. He didn’t know, either, but presumed autonomous vehicles would be programmed not to use a 2+ HOV lane at any time. If that’s incorrect, he thought AVs would be programmed not to use a 2+ HOV lane unless they were carrying two or more passengers. A missing driver certainly shouldn’t be counted as a vehicle occupant, he said. I agree.
Does anyone know how AVs are programmed for HOV lanes?
Q: I think you should write about robotaxis since they seem to be a coming thing. How do I know, as a pedestrian or driver, that there is a robotaxi nearby? Any tips for pedestrians or drivers in the vicinity of a robotaxi?
Q: Since this subject is being debated by city officials and discussed widely, maybe we could offer examples of our experience in interacting with these devices, when driving or as passengers.
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Let me cite two experiences with Waymo objects in Mountain View:
1. Getting off southbound Shoreline east to Central Expressway north, midday, light traffic. On the blind downhill exit, I am shocked to suddenly see a row of stopped cars on the long “return” ramp, requiring emergency braking. A Waymo at the front won’t accelerate/merge with light expressway traffic, as a human driver would.
2. On Castro, a major street, a Waymo is drooling below 20, in a 25 mph area, acquiring a “tail.” It stops prematurely at a green light about to turn red, trapping six of us. Then, no signal, it turns right, which it could have done on green.
My take: They’re not ready for prime time (Mountain View is Waymo HQ) given multiple issues still (disabled vehicles, etc.). The Tesla fatality at the Highway 85 southbound ramp from 101 is just one horrifying example.
John Joss, Mountain View
A: You both have an excellent idea, getting others’ stories about what they’re experiencing with driverless vehicles, whether as drivers, riders or pedestrians interacting with the new technology. What stories do you all have about interacting with driverless vehicles and robotaxis?