The past 12 months or so haven't been great for self-driving car companies in San Francisco. If you've spent time in the city recently, you'd know that it's the autonomous vehicle capital of the country, with self-driving taxis roaming the streets and, occasionally, getting themselves into trouble. Well, the city is now suing California state regulators for allowing Google's AV company Waymo to expand its self-driving fleet, citing public safety concerns.
In August of last year, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) granted Waymo permission to increase its robotaxi operations in San Francisco, allowing them to run 24/7. However, according to The Washington Post, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu is working to have the CPUC at least put a hold on that decision until the state can more closely review the safety regulations of self-driving vehicles.
"As driverless AVs expanded in San Francisco, members of the public and city officials identified hundreds of safety incidents, including interference with first responders," said the lawsuit, filed on December 11, per WP. The lawsuit claims that the state board approved Waymo's request despite objections from the city.
If Chiu and San Francisco win this and CPUC's decision is overturned, Waymo would lose its ability to operate in all areas, all hours of the day. While CPUC also initially allowed GM's AV company Cruise to expand its efforts in San Francisco, Cruise isn't affected by this lawsuit because it already had its permits revoked following an incident in which one of its vehicles struck a pedestrian and dragged her almost 20 feet across the pavement.
When asked for comment by The Drive, a Waymo representative relayed the company's official statement: "We are disappointed that the City has chosen to appeal the CPUC’s previous decision, however, we remain confident in our ability to continue safely serving San Francisco’s visitors and residents. We have continually demonstrated our deep willingness and longtime commitment to work in partnership with California state regulators, SF city officials and first responders and continue to stand by that approach."
While Waymo hasn't had the same number of dangerous incidents as Cruise, its vehicles have still been immobilized by fog and impeded police activity. (To Waymo's credit, it touted improvements to its performance in adverse weather conditions four months after that fog incident.) Nevertheless, residents are so annoyed with self-driving cars in general that they've even taken to sabotaging them by putting traffic cones on their hoods, temporarily disabling them.
San Franciscans have no control over the self-driving robotaxis in their city, as Waymo is a private corporation whose business operations are permitted by the state of California. So if city-goers are displeased with Waymo, their only recourse is essentially to take it up with mom. And that seems to be exactly what Chiu and the city are doing.
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