San Francisco officials want the CPUC to slow robotaxi authorisations

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San Francisco officials have sent letters to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) expressing their concerns over the pace of robotaxi deployments.

Driverless vehicle giants Cruise and Waymo have significant expansion plans for their respective operations in San Francisco. However, their existing deployments have been causing some problems for the city.

Some of the reported issues have included driverless vehicles stopping in the middle of the road for no reason, disrupting the work of the emergency services, and delaying bus riders.

In light of the problems with the currently limited robotaxi deployments, San Francisco Transportation Authority (SFTA) officials believe it would be “unreasonable” to sanction unlimited further expansion.

“A series of limited deployments with incremental expansions — rather than unlimited authorizations — offer the best path toward public confidence in driving automation and industry success in San Francisco and beyond,” the officials wrote to the CPUC.

Cruise was granted approval to test its driverless vehicles on streets in San Francisco on 15 October 2020. Private trials without backup drivers began in December 2020. Following successful tests, Cruise began offering free trips to the public in February 2022.

Cruise was not granted approval by the CPUC to charge riders for trips until June 2022. The company is permitted to charge for rides in areas of the city between 10pm and 6am.

In the case of Waymo, the Alphabet subsidiary launched San Francisco’s first 24/7 fully-autonomous ride-hailing service in November 2022.

Waymo is still awaiting permission from the CPUC to charge for its robotaxi trips.

The SFTA wants access to more data about how long robotaxis block traffic and calls for the vehicles to be kept off main routes during rush hour until they can prove their ability to operate without causing “significant interruption of street operations and transit services.”

(Photo by Michal Pechardo on Unsplash)

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