Waymo and Cruise, companies specializing in the production of autonomous vehicles, are on the verge of obtaining final permission to charge for fully autonomous taxis around the city of San Francisco at any time of the day.
Against the background of some indignation of the city authorities about the presence of self-driving cars on the roads, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) published at the end of last week two draft resolutions that will give Cruise and Waymo the opportunity to expand the opening hours and service areas of their currently limited robotaxi services.
The hearings of these projects are scheduled for June 29. Based on the CPUC projects, many of the protests put forward by the City of San Francisco have already been rejected.
The city authorities drew attention to a number of (mostly) Cruise cars that were out of order and stopped in the middle of intersections or even on light rail lines, affecting traffic and interfering with both public transport and emergency response services. A series of incidents documented on social media and online forums has led to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association launching an investigation into Cruise.
Armed with these examples, the city urged CPUC to act cautiously, organize seminars, collect more data, ban the use of robotaxis in the city center and during rush hours, and limit the expansion of the park.
Robotaxis have already caused problems in the city both from the point of view of traffic flow and from the point of view of safety, and these problems will only get worse when the city is flooded with an unlimited number of cars, the city claims. Neither Cruise nor Waymo said exactly how many cars are currently operating in San Francisco. A Waymo spokesperson said the company has "a couple hundred vehicles" in each of its fully autonomous service areas under the Waymo One brand.
"San Francisco expresses concern about the expansion of commercial services during peak hours of the day, as stops and delays are likely to affect significantly more passengers," CPUC said in a summary of objections raised by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) and The Mayor's Office for the Disabled. - In addition, San Francisco describes unplanned stops and unsafe maneuvers of Cruise vehicles that affected the work of emergency response services. These include incidents when they created obstacles for a fire service vehicle heading to a call, ran over a fire hose or illegally entered an emergency zone."
The CPUC stated that San Francisco's arguments are not "grounds for a proper protest" because it "would require reconsideration of the Commission's previous ruling" and because the protest cannot be based "solely on political objections." The Commission also noted that the California Department of Motor Vehicles, not the CPUC, has authority over Cruise and Waymo's approved operational project areas - which include service areas and opening hours.
While city agencies have clearly expressed their objections to CPUC approval, Cruise and Waymo were able to enlist the support of 38 stakeholders, including elected officials, representatives of business, industry and local communities.
If and when CPUC allows these two competitors to start charging passengers for driverless rides, Waymo and Cruise will find themselves in the city on an equal footing. At least in terms of regulation.
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