According to InfoWars, the complaints come from both the Austin Police Department (APD) and Austin Fire Department (AFD). Officials from the two agencies are calling attention to the fact that autonomous cars are hindering first responders' abilities to assist the people of Austin, Axios reported. The AFD obtained internal emails and complaints regarding this issue through a Texas Public Information Act request.
The city's Transportation and Public Works Department (TPW) has received more than 40 reports related to driverless cars for incidents such as as nearly hitting pedestrians and emergency vehicles. Fire, police and emergency rescue teams have even been forced to spend time, and waste tax dollars, learning how to deal with self-driving automobiles.
In one instance, an APD incident log disclosed how a driverless car had to be stopped from hitting civilians during an Oct. 1 fundraising walk. "If I didn't jump out on front and physically make contact with it, it would have possibly hit the walkers," an unnamed APD officer wrote. "They all stopped and thought it was going to drive into them."
"It goes without saying – these vehicles are becoming a major problem and someone is going to get hurt, probably one of us. I'm not sure if our [chain-of-command] is aware of all the issues, but it's getting ridiculous dealing with them."
Axios also published two emails from AFD personnel outlining the issues with self-driving cars. In one email, fire lieutenant Richard Porst lamented to colleagues that autonomous vehicles "present issues for us trying to exit the station." Two incident reports in September also involved autonomous vehicles hindering movements by AFD fire engines, with both logged as "near misses."
Three companies – Waymo, Volkswagen ADMT and Cruise – all have vehicles driving the city streets. However, local officials have little authority over them.
Speaking to Axios, TPWD officials recounted that Cruise made some of its vehicles available for firefighters, police officers and emergency medics during a Sept. 20 session. The training was meant for "police, fire and [emergency medical services] to build familiarity with [Cruise] vehicles and understand how to best interact with the devices during an emergency," said Cristal Corrales, a spokeswoman for TPW.
However, the session only pushed through after Austin officials had grown exasperated over the summer as they tried to schedule a training with Cruise. "Trying to communicate with you is … problematic," lamented AFD special operations training captain Matthew McElearney in an email to Cruise investigations manager Mike Shinn. "Frankly, you don't respond in a timely manner." (Related: It's a "no" for driverless cars: Americans prefer driving themselves to work than relying on autonomous vehicles.)
"We understand the frustration expressed by the fire captain, [so] we strive to be as responsive as possible," said Cruise spokeswoman Navideh Forgani. "We have spent the last few months growing our first responder training team and we hope this will not be a future issue. Our goal is to be good neighbors in the communities we serve and meeting with city officials and first responders is a top priority."
She also confirmed that Cruise also hosted other training sessions earlier in 2023. According to Forghani, the Sept. 20 training with the AFD and APD involved "a very productive dialogue."
InfoWars also noted that the problem isn't confined to Austin, as autonomous vehicles have "also caused headaches in the city of Houston." It concluded: "This is only the beginning of an issue that will surely be debated nationwide as more autonomous vehicles are rolled out each year."
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