Waymo and Cruise received victories in San Francisco, CA, where the two robotaxi providers received approval to operate their driverless cars 24/7 in the city. The approval came after a six-hour public meeting during which both supporters and critics of robotaxis expressed their thoughts on the matter.
As noted in a report from The Verge, residents who were opposed to the Cruise and Waymo robotaxis cited incidents involving the driverless vehicles malfunctioning and breaking down in the middle of intersections and streets, among other concerns. Supporters of Cruise and Waymo, on the other hand, argued the robotaxis are safer than human drivers and hold a lot of potential for disabled riders.
Ultimately, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted 3-1 in favor of Waymo and Cruise. The vehicles will be able to operate similarly to Uber or Lyft, with the robotaxis traveling anywhere in the city at any time of the day. Waymo and Cruise can also charge fees for the rides themselves.
At the end of the meeting, CPUC Commissioner John Reynolds said the decision was the first step in the mainstream application of autonomous driving technology.
“Today is the first of many steps in bringing AV transportation services to Californians,” Reynolds said.
Waymo celebrated the CPUC’s decision, noting it was a “major moment” in the history and development of autonomous vehicles.
“Today’s permit marks the true beginning of our commercial operations in San Francisco," said Tekedra Mawakana, co-CEO of Waymo. "We’re incredibly grateful for this vote of confidence from the CPUC, and to the communities and riders who have supported our service. We can’t wait for more San Franciscans to experience the mobility, safety, sustainability and accessibility benefits of full autonomy for themselves---all at the touch of a button."
“It’s a huge milestone for the AV industry, but even more importantly a signal to the country that California prioritizes progress over our tragic status quo," said Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt. "We share the CPUC’s commitment to delivering safer, cleaner and more accessible transportation options, and remain committed to collaborating closely with regulators to push toward this critical goal. Let’s Cruise!”