Q: A reader asked, “Any tips for pedestrians or drivers in the vicinity of a robotaxi?”
I treat robotaxis the same as any other vehicle: Assume they are driven by a mindless, distracted, reckless idiot, until proven otherwise.
Q: At the height of the afternoon commute a couple of years ago, I was the last car with the green light turning left onto El Monte Road from El Camino Real in Mountain View. There would have been plenty of time to complete my turn, if traffic were allowed to flow naturally.
But I became caught in the middle of El Camino Real, where three lanes of southbound traffic began heading toward me, when the self-driving car in front of me came to a complete stop, for no apparent reason. Its sensor likely noted three impatient male pedestrians had stepped into the street, waiting there for the light to change for them, instead of safely remaining on the pedestrian curb.
I learned then to stay far away from all self-driving cars, remembering they stop short, with no warning and for no apparent reason. Those pedestrians were always safe. It was my car that was placed in danger from oncoming traffic.
T.J. James, Palo Alto
A: A valuable perspective.
Q: About three years ago, I passed a self-driving car in Sunnyvale. I didn’t see any humans in the car at all.
This was the first time I’d seen one up close, so I drove slowly past it, then glanced frequently in my rear-view mirror. I saw it move into its left turn lane at the intersection, then suddenly (after the other cars in that lane had passed it), make a right turn from the left turn lane. At least it didn’t hit anything.
Karen Brenchley, Sunnyvale
A: It sounds as if using extreme caution is still the way to proceed, where robotaxis and self-driven vehicles are concerned.
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Q: Our friend from Australia is coming to visit in September. She is fairly handicapped and has the appropriate placards at home. Is her “hanging” placard valid in California? Or can I get one from the CA DMV while she is visiting? I have looked on the internet, but have come up empty-handed.
Frank Gurnee, Fremont
A: A nonresident who has a valid permanent disabled person parking placard from their state/country and is planning to visit California can request a travel parking placard. The placard is valid for 90 days from the date it is issued by the DMV. The nonresident can either apply online on the DMV’s website or by mail by completing and signing an “Application for Disabled Person Placard or Plates” (REG 195).