California regulators approve robotaxi expansion for Cruise and Waymo

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has granted permission for Cruise and Waymo to operate commercial robotaxi services around the clock in San Francisco, marking  significant moment in the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry in California.

The CPUC voted 3-1 in favor of the expansions, allowing both companies to expand their services without restrictions on the number of robotaxis on the roads. Prior to the decision, Cruise offered driverless rides at night, while Waymo operated robotaxis with human safety operators throughout the day. The CPUC’s decision now allows them to expand their technology in a broader capacity, pushing the boundaries of AV adoption in urban environments.

However, the expansion has been met with its share of concerns. As we told you about earlier this week, residents and city agencies have raised questions about the safety and readiness of AV technology on San Francisco streets. Instances of vehicles “bricking,” or stopping unexpectedly, have raised concerns about potential traffic disruptions, obstructing public transit and emergency response vehicles.

Critics have also highlighted accessibility issues, urging the companies to develop robotaxis that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Questions about assisting passengers with disabilities, loading mobility aids, and accommodating the visually impaired remain unanswered, casting a shadow on the purported benefits of AV services.

Public comments during the CPUC hearing underscored the polarized views on AV expansion. Some, particularly representing the interests of the blind community, expressed gratitude for the increased independence and safety AVs could offer. Others, including taxi and ride-hail drivers, voiced concerns about job loss and perceived conflicts of interest.

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