Fate of Waymo and Cruise hangs in the balance as California regulators vote on autonomous vehicle expansion

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is gearing up for a pivotal vote later today that could reshape the future of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology companies like Cruise and Waymo in the state of California.

A ‘yes’ vote from the CPUC on Thursday could be the start of accelerated growth for Cruise and Waymo. However, a ‘no’ vote could prompt a shift in strategy, potentially forcing them to explore other cities where regulatory conditions might be more conducive to their aspirations.

Cruise and Waymo already offer limited commercial services in San Francisco, but the CPUC’s decision could finally allow these companies the permits necessary to begin charging customers for all rides, extending their service hours and coverage areas, and expanding their fleets without constraints.

Beyond the immediate impact on Cruise and Waymo, the CPUC’s decision could also impact the broader AV landscape. San Francisco is the hotbed of AV technology and testing, and as such the verdict could serve as a precedent, influencing how other cities and states formulate and enforce regulations.

Opponents of the potential expansion advocate for measured growth and transparent data sharing. They say the technology isn’t ready for expansion, and call for AV companies to disclose not just collisions, but also instances of ‘bricking.’

“The technology is simply not there, and the public isn’t getting the full picture. There is a clear disconnect between what Waymo and Cruise are saying about the safety of their vehicles and what the public and first responders are dealing with on a day-to-day basis. The city of San Francisco said there have been over 240 such reported incidents since the beginning of the year. But you wouldn’t know it if you asked regulators or the robotaxi companies themselves. They don’t have to report such incidents,” said Kloczko.” said Justin Kloczko, tech and privacy advocate for Consumer Watchdog.

The problems faced by Waymo and Cruise have been well documented. There have been instances where the vehicles get confused and block intersections for hours at a time. They have also been involved in accidents, and residents of San Francisco have even figured out that you can disable a Cruise robotaxi by placing a traffic cone on the hood of the Chevrolet Bolt. In 2023 the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has received 630 AV Collision Reports, according to its website.

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