Grass Valley, CA A Google self-driving car caused a traffic jam in Grass Valley over the weekend. A Google engineer decided to try out the new driverless car in this area to, as he explains, “put it through the paces of my own hometown, where I learned to drive.”
Still in its experimental stages, the driverless car has met with varying amounts of success. Ryan Wolford, a Google engineer from Mountain View, CA, decided to – I guess drive wouldn’t be the right word -take his self-driving Google prototype vehicle to Nevada County while visiting his brother Skyy Wolford of North San Juan.
“Yeah, I decided to bring the one with no steering wheel or pedals. It worked like a champ all the way here. Even through the Roseville mess, and even Auburn. Jesus, I swear Auburn is the red-headed stepchild of traffic patterns everywhere,” Ryan Wolford tells Gish Gallop. “I thought the car could handle pretty much everything by now, but as you see [he gestured toward the car orbiting us], it can’t quite comprehend this roundabout. The roundabout up by Briar Patch was fine, no problem.”
As we continued the interview, the car was still stuck doing circles in the Idaho-Maryland Road roundabout with a determined Grass Valley Police officer in slow pursuit. Mr. Wolford and I were ordered to stay where we were in the center of the roundabout until officers “arrested the progress” of the Google autonomous vehicle. Wolford had finally jumped out of the car into the center of the roundabout after about “600 times around that damn circle.” I ran across to help him. And to interview him.
“Man, that car is not stopping for that cop anytime soon. It is battery powered and recharged by both solar and kinetic energy,” Ryan Wolford told Gish Gallop. “This particular prototype, which I helped develop, is a Level 5 autonomous vehicle. What this means is that it can drive itself, charge itself and even program its own route without any human assistance.”
– Do you think that is wise at this point?
“Do I look like I feel wise, mister? My jeans are torn, my loafers are getting run over in this roundabout about twice every 25 seconds, I’m trapped in a goddamn circle in the middle of this hicksville town, and my brother Skyy is across the way there sniffing brake pads at Riebe’s for asbestos.”
– Is the car something you are proud of?
“No, to be honest. I can’t believe we didn’t have the foresight to program the damn thing to handle negotiating a freaking 2-lane circle! I and my crew programmed this thing to use radar, lidar, GPS, odometry, quantum intuition, metronomes, palindromes, and computer vision to handle virtually any scenario on the road, but the dumb son-of-a-bitch got itself trapped in a circle. Just like the cop behind it.”
The roundabout remained closed to traffic for another 8 hours. The incident finally came to a close when the cruiser, driven by the Grass Valley Police officer, ran out of gas and got rear-ended by the driverless Google car.
Both Wolford brothers were arrested and booked into Wayne Brown on charges of just knowing too much for the public good. I simply told the officer, Deputy Bush of the GVPD, I would leave his name out of this story, and he let me go. The Google car is currently impounded at a local towing yard where it is being looted for parts.