Future Tech

Waymo robotaxis set to cruise past red tape into LA and beyond

Tan KW
Publish date: Sat, 22 Jun 2024, 08:53 AM
Tan KW
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Future Tech

The way is paved for autonomous vehicle company Waymo to extend taxi services beyond San Francisco and into the San Francisco Peninsula and Los Angeles.

This is largely due to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reaffirming its March decision to allow Waymo's expansion, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Although CPUC's ruling was supposed to take effect in March, local opposition delayed its implementation. Officials in San Mateo County (which covers the SF Peninsula) and LA resisted CPUC and said cities should have greater regulatory authority over self-driving car firms.

Waymo's infamy in California perhaps isn't surprising. In just the past two months, one of the company's robotaxis drove down the wrong side of the road to bypass cyclists rather than slowing down; while others are said to have hit "clearly visible objects" including a telephone pole.

Dissenters put their support behind a bill introduced by state Senator Dave Cortese, which would have granted local governments the authority to regulate self-driving cars, such as those from Waymo, but Cortese withdrew it earlier this week.

It was ready for review by the California Legislature's Assembly Transportation Committee, where the bill basically would have been killed, according to Cortese, who said the committee members planned on amending the bill to remove its "essential element of local control."

The legal battle isn't quite settled yet as there's still a pending lawsuit from the San Francisco City local government against CPUC over the original introduction of Waymo to the Golden Gate City. Plus, Cortese said he wants to reintroduce his bill next year, raising the possibility of greater local authority.

Despite these challenges, state government support appears to cleared the path for Waymo's expansion into LA and the Peninsula, although the exact timeline remains unclear.

A spokesperson told The Register: "We thank the legislature for taking a careful and considerate approach to its review of SB 915. This week's outcomes reflect California's already expansive authority to regulate autonomous vehicles - as exercised yesterday by the CPUC's unanimous vote to reaffirm Waymo's commercial service territory in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Peninsula - ultimately preserving the ability for Californians to continue enjoying the benefits of AVs. Waymo looks forward to continued collaboration with regulators and policymakers as we safely and thoughtfully scale our service over time." ®



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