Flipping off a Driverless Car

Remember the iconic, tire-squealing chase scene in “Bullitt,” the Steve McQueen movie from the 1960s? Now, imagine the opposite, and you’ll have a sense of how the car cautiously drove up and down San Francisco’s hills, gingerly navigated four-way stops and angled around double-parked cars.

Still, even for someone like me — a reporter who has spent a fair amount of time with this kind of technology over the past few years — riding through a major city in a car without a driver was an eye-opener.

Not to say there weren’t issues. As the car passed the joyriding teenagers a second time, it swerved sharply to the right, presumably because it mistook them for pedestrians. At another intersection, it hit the brakes just as the light changed to red, skidding to a stop in the middle of a crosswalk, its nose sticking out into the intersection. A pedestrian yelled at my robot driver and flipped it off as he walked by. I couldn’t say if that was more or less satisfying than flipping off a human.

Stuck on the Streets of San Francisco in a Driverless Car
A reporter and a photographer went for a ride in an experimental autonomous vehicle operated by the General Motors subsidiary Cruise. There were bumps in the roa