Recently, the city of San Francisco has initiated legal action against the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the entity responsible for regulating autonomous vehicles in the state. This demand to stop robotaxis seeks to significantly reduce the presence of these vehicles on the city’s roads.
About the lawsuit to stop robotaxis
The lawsuit focuses on the CPUC’s decision in August 2023 to grant final permits to GM’s Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo , allowing them to charge for rides, expand hours and service areas, and increase the number of robotaxis on their fleets. The lawsuit asks the CPUC to reconsider its decision and evaluate its compliance with the law, The Washington Post reported.
San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu filed an administrative motion shortly after the August decision, aiming to delay Cruise and Waymo’s ramping up operations and get another hearing with the CPUC. In December, the City Attorney’s Office filed a lawsuit with the California Court of Appeals, seeking to have the CPUC review its August decision and revoke the permit granted to Waymo.
“As driverless autonomous vehicles expanded in San Francisco, the public and city officials identified hundreds of safety incidents, including interference with first responders“the lawsuit says.”Despite these serious safety incidents, and despite San Francisco’s objections, the commission approved Cruise and Waymo’s applications to operate“.
The lawsuit also calls on the CPUC to establish reporting requirements, safety criteria and other public safety regulations to address incidents that have affected first responders, caused traffic congestion and disrupted public transportation. This litigation has no direct consequences for Cruise, since the company has lost its permits in California . However, it could affect Waymo, which still operates in San Francisco.
Although Waymo has not generated as many high-profile incidents as Cruise, San Francisco officials express concern about giving the company full control in the city.
According to a Waymo spokesperson, Waymo’s current fleet in San Francisco consists of 250 registered vehicles and not all are in operation simultaneously. The company’s ability to increase these numbers at its discretion is a concern to city officials, the lawsuit states.
“We are disappointed that the city decided to appeal the CPUC’s earlier decision; However, we remain confident in our ability to continue safely serving the visitors and residents of San Francisco.“said Waymo spokesperson Julia Ilina. “We have continually demonstrated our deep willingness and long-term commitment to working in partnership with California state regulators, SF city officials, and first responders and continue to maintain that focus“.
Waymo’s robotaxis expansion
On January 19, 2024, Waymo reported that it had filed the necessary paperwork with the CPUC to extend its autonomous vehicle service to Los Angeles. Since February 2023, Waymo has been conducting tests of its robotaxis in Los Angeles.
In October 2023, the company began offering free robotaxis rides in specific areas of Santa Monica, Century City, WeHo, Mid City, K-Town, and eventually Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), with the last scheduled stop for March 3, 2024. At that time, Los Angeles joined Phoenix and San Francisco as the third city where Waymo operates.
Although the company already has a robotaxi service in operation in Phoenix since October 2022, it has recently begun testing on roads in the same city. Despite the challenges in San Francisco, Waymo continues to actively expand its operations to new areas and has told NBC News that it already has more than 50,000 people on a waiting list in Los Angeles to participate in its free rides.
Until February 16, Waymo and the CPUC have the opportunity to file a response to the filing made on December 11. Additionally, Chiu has taken the case to the California Supreme Court, arguing that the CPUC circumvented regulations established by the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to conduct an environmental impact review related to its decision to grant final permits to Cruise. and Waymo.
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