San Francisco, CA — The epicenter of all things technology has hit several snags in the past few months as several self-driving driver-less cars have become stuck traversing Lombard Street in San Francisco, CA. Over the past weekend, graphics card maker Nvidia’s car ‘Petra’ had a similar fate as its $420,000 prototype vehicle became confused while attempting to make its way down the world’s most crooked street.
For self-driving car engineers, Lombard Street is the ultimate accomplishment. Not only is America’s most crooked street, it is also one of its steepest. For the past decade may companies including Google, Apple, Tesla and now Nvidia have attempted to make their way down the street, and all have failed.
None more spectacularly when an 2014 Google Prius prototype, designed by ace engineer Ryan Wolford, just gave up on the twisty turns and decided to bore straight down the hill, taking out several rose gardens and nearly missing a homeless man. It continued down Lombard Street at Steve McQueen level speeds, crossing Columbus and finally landing in Joe DiMaggio Playground.
The Google car caused over $17,000 in damages and was forbidden by the City to ever drive on the street again.
Lombard Street or Bust
This past week during an Nvidia press conference, engineers for the graphics card giant were certain they would be the first self-driving car to make it down Lombard Street.
“We’ve studied how the other guys screwed up,” said a confident and somewhat cocky lead designer Petr Čáslavský, PhD. “They were too arrogant and sloppy and didn’t have enough touch-points to detect turns and landmarks. We’ve added satellite imagery to overcome the ground-based detection issues. Also, we’ve borrowed AI [Artificial Intelligence] from IBM Watson. It’s so smart that it will be able to handle Lombard [Street] and play 4 rounds of Jeopardy.”
However when time came this past weekend to test the Nvidia car, the vehicle stopped mid-way down the street and refused to move. According to people in the small crowd that came to witness the historic test, it appeared that the car “was upset.”
“I don’t know how to say this,” said Chrissy Delstrom of Russian Hill, “but it seemed like the car was throwing a tantrum like a little child. Everything started out OK, but then about half way down the street, it started jerking and shaking. I think it might have been scared.”
According to Mr. Čáslavský, one of the advances they installed into Petra was what he called “an emotion chip,” which they believed would give the car a greater reaction time, similar to the way humans and animals rely on instinct. Unfortunately, the same mechanism that was to allow for faster responses, sent the poor car into a manic-depressive state. Mr. Čáslavský says the car simply “got scared.”
“We’re going to have to take her back to the shop and figure out what happened,” continued Mr. Čáslavský. “Unfortunately, there’s not a car-equivalent of Prozac…yet.”
The SFPD let the car go with a warning, and referred it to General Hospital Psych Services for counseling.