California Approves Waymo’s Expansion in LA and San Francisco

California has approved Waymo’s request to expand its driverless car services across Los Angeles and the San Francisco Peninsula. This move, authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), marks a considerable extension of Waymo’s operations beyond its existing services in San Francisco and Phoenix.

The decision allows Waymo to deploy its robotaxis on both local roads and highways, with the capability of reaching speeds up to 65 mph (105km/h). Despite the approval for highway operation, Waymo spokesperson Julia Ilina emphasizes a cautious approach, stating there are “no immediate plans” to expand robotaxi services to highways, focusing instead on enhancing their 24/7 service within city limits. (via CNBC)

The company recently launched highway operations in Phoenix.

Local officials, particularly from San Mateo and Los Angeles counties, voiced strong opposition to Waymo’s expansion, citing safety incidents and a desire for more control over the deployment of such technologies in their jurisdictions. In response, Waymo has committed to addressing these concerns by updating its Passenger Safety Plan and continuing to test its vehicles with a safety driver behind the wheel on freeways.

The CPUC’s approval comes at a time when autonomous vehicle technology is under increased scrutiny due to several incidents involving driverless cars. Despite these challenges, Waymo has received backing from various groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Bicycle Coalition, highlighting the potential benefits of autonomous driving in improving road safety and efficiency.

Waymo’s expansion request was initially delayed by the CPUC, extending the a review period by 120 days until June 19, 2024. The delay by the CPUC is seen as a precautionary measure to ensure a thorough evaluation of Waymo’s expansion proposals.

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