Regulator Approves Waymo’s Expansion of Robotaxi Service in Los Angeles and San Francisco Peninsula

Alphabet’s Waymo robotaxi unit has received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission to expand its service to parts of Los Angeles and the Bay Area, as announced in a notice posted to the regulator’s website on Friday.

“Waymo may begin fared driverless passenger service operations in the specified areas of Los Angeles and the San Francisco Peninsula, effective today,” the release stated.

In mid-February, Waymo initiated a voluntary recall filing notice with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, aiming to address software issues. This recall was prompted by two previously undisclosed incidents in Phoenix on Dec. 11, where unmanned Waymo vehicles collided with the same towed pickup truck within minutes of each other.

Safety officials working with Waymo on Freeway
Concerns arise over safety after Waymo’s recall due to collisions with a towed pickup truck. (Credits: Waymo)

These collisions exacerbated existing concerns about the use of autonomous vehicles in California. Competing taxi and transit service providers, along with labor activists, expressed worries about potential job losses for drivers. Meanwhile, safety advocates urged regulators and politicians to impede Waymo’s expansion in the state.

In February, the CPUC suspended Waymo’s expansion efforts for up to 120 days to allow for additional review time.

In its latest communication on Friday, the regulator approved Waymo’s new proposal, citing “Waymo’s updated Passenger Safety Plan (PSP), submitted in connection with its expanded operational design domain (ODD) for deployment,” which had also received approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Waymo Car Driving in SF
Waymo’s progress in California contrasts with the exits of Cruise and Apple from autonomous vehicles. (Credits: Waymo)

“We’re grateful to the CPUC for this vote of confidence in our operations, which paves the way for the deployment of our commercial Waymo One service in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Peninsula,” remarked a Waymo spokesperson in a statement.

Waymo’s advancements in California follow the exits of General Motors-owned Cruise and Apple from the autonomous vehicle business in the state. Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s Tesla has yet to develop an autonomous vehicle capable of safely operating without a human driver at the controls.

Regulators in California halted the operations of self-driving Cruise robot axis in October after a series of incidents, including one where a robotaxi rolled over a pedestrian who had initially been hit by a human-driven car and was then pulled forward about 20 feet by the Cruise vehicle.

Waymo’s latest approvals enable the company’s robotaxis to operate in proximity to Tesla’s Palo Alto engineering headquarters in San Mateo County. This approval specifically applies to the commercial ride-sharing service Waymo One. The company has been deploying testing vehicles in these areas for several years.

Jackson Kelley
Jackson Kelley
Jackson is a political activist and market expert. He covers the impact of politics on the market and global economy.
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