Waymo’s Freeway Fiasco: Autonomous Vehicles Provoke Traffic in San Francisco

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Key Takeaways

  • Six Waymo robotaxis encountered a road closure in San Francisco.
  • It caused a significant traffic jam on the Potrero Avenue 101 on-ramp on the evening of April 18
  • Frustrated drivers had to manually clear the road.

A traffic incident involving six Waymo robotaxis caused significant delays in San Francisco as vehicles encountered a road closure and blocked the route.

On April 18 evening, at 9:30 p.m., a group of six Waymo robotaxis created a traffic jam on the Potrero Avenue 101 on-ramp in San Francisco. The video was shared on Reddit and confirmed by Waymo.

Line of driverless Waymos glitch out and block the Portrero Avenue 101 onramp
byu/dzdaniel84 insanfrancisco

The incident began when the leading Waymo vehicle encountered a road closure en route to the company’s city depot. The freeway was, therefore, the only alternative route.

Waymo has received approval from California regulators to operate its robotaxis on state freeways without an onboard human driver. However, it currently only conducts freeway tests with a human driver present.

The company has stated that it focuses on safely expanding its autonomous operations in Arizona before proceeding with similar activities in California.

The situation escalated when the robotaxis, following the lead of the first, pulled over to avoid the coned-off area, causing a backup in traffic. Footage from the scene shows drivers exiting their vehicles to move the cones to bypass the obstruction and the robotaxis.

Waymo responded by sending a Roadside Assistance team to resolve the situation within 30 minutes. This marks the first freeway-related blockage by Waymo vehicles, highlighting ongoing challenges as autonomous vehicles and human drivers share road space.

This incident adds to the broader conversation about integrating autonomous vehicles in urban settings, particularly regarding how they interact with road closures and emergency responses.