Waymo’s Proposed Expansion Stalled by Regulatory Review Amid Safety Concerns

Waymo’s plans to broaden its robotaxi operations into Los Angeles and parts of the San Francisco Bay Area have hit a regulatory roadblock. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has placed a temporary suspension on Waymo’s expansion efforts, extending a review period by 120 days until June 19, 2024.

The prolonged review comes after a Waymo vehicle was involved in an accident with a cyclist earlier this month, causing minor injuries. This incident, among others by other autonomous vehicle (AV) companies such as Cruise, has heightened scrutiny on how to safely integrate them into densely populated urban settings.

The suspension by the CPUC is seen as a precautionary measure to ensure a thorough evaluation of Waymo’s expansion proposals, particularly regarding their impact on public safety and urban mobility.

David Canepa, vice president of San Mateo County’s Board of Supervisors, criticized Waymo for what he perceives as insufficient dialogue on its expansion plans, particularly concerning safety protocols and emergency response coordination.

“Since Waymo has stalled any meaningful discussions on its expansion plans into Silicon Valley, the CPUC has put the brakes on its application to test robotaxi service virtually unfettered both in San Mateo and Los Angeles counties. This will provide the opportunity to fully engage the autonomous vehicle maker on our very real public safety concerns that have caused all kinds of dangerous situations for firefighters and police in neighboring San Francisco.”

David Canepa (via KRON)

Despite the regulatory pause, Waymo remains optimistic, viewing the suspension as a routine part of the CPUC’s review process. “The ‘suspension’ of an advice letter is a procedural part of the CPUC’s standard and robust review process,” explained Katherine Barna, a spokesperson for Waymo.

The company said was committed to collaborating with local authorities and addressing community concerns as it seeks to extend its autonomous taxi services.

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