West Austin neighbors petition against self-driving cars

AUSTIN (KXAN) Stopped at a red light near Austin Community College, Jinous Rouhani says she narrowly avoided having her car hit by a driverless Cruise vehicle.

“The Cruise car turned onto Rio Grande and it was so close to hitting my car,” she said. “I closed my eyes and just knew it was imminent but luckily it missed me.”

The Pemberton Heights resident says the driverless vehicles have caused congestion in her neighborhood at night.

“The frequency of errors that I see on their part is very worrisome,” Rouhani said.

Cruise recently expanded its operations past I-35, into the East Austin neighborhood.

Michael Staples is Cruise’s general manager for the Austin market. He says they’ve seen a significant increase in passenger volume this fall.

“We’ve gotten a lot of rides coming out of the West and North Campus area, especially going downtown,” he said. “We’ve seen a huge increase over the last in the last few weeks.”

Cruise says its seen a significant increase in passenger volume this fall in Austin. (Photo Courtesy Cruise)

Last weekend, a traffic jam occurred with at least 20 Cruise cars on a busy Saturday night near the University of Texas at Austin campus.

“Our vehicles saw a lot of passengers nearby,” Staples said. “One vehicle got stuck and it ended up leading to a bit of a domino effect.”

These incidents have caused concern for Raina Hornaday, who recently created a petition to limit the operation of driverless cars in Austin.

She hopes to have hundreds of signatures signed and sent to Texas Representative Gina Hinojosa.

The petition asks for stricter safety measures, limiting operations in residential neighborhoods at night and an immediate review of Cruise’s overall operations.

“Before accidents happen, before dogs or cats are hit, hopefully we can get some type of safety measures,” Hornaday said. “We just feel like these driverless vehicles are not safe.”

In an effort to enhance safety, Cruise is asking that everyone report incidents — by emailing — involving its driverless cars.

The company is asking that you include the date, time and name of the vehicle involved in the incident.

“Anytime there’s an incident or accident, we review absolutely everything, so we take this very seriously,” Staples concluded.

For those riding in a Cruise car, you can shake your phone with the app open to provide instant feedback about any issues during the ride. To try out a Cruise car yourself, you can join the waitlist. Rides are offered between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

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