San Francisco Takes Legal Action Against California’s Waymo Robotaxi Expansion

City dwellers fed up with erratic autonomous vehicles.

The municipality of San Francisco is taking legal action against California regulators for their authorization of Waymo’s expansion of robotaxi services within the city.

Waymo, a division of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has expanded its operations to continuously test its autonomous Jaguar I-Pace robotaxis. However, this move has faced resistance in San Francisco. City Attorney David Chiu is pushing for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to delay its ruling until proper safety regulations for self-driving vehicles can be established and implemented. If successful, this could potentially suspend all on-road testing of self-driving cars.

If Chiu and the City of San Francisco are successful in their case and the CPUC’s ruling is overturned, Waymo will no longer have permission to run their vehicles 24/7. As reported by The Washington Post, the lawsuit highlights that “as self-driving cars increased in San Francisco, numerous safety concerns were raised by both citizens and city officials, including instances of obstruction of emergency responders.”

CarBuzz has reached out to Waymo for a statement regarding the situation and will revise the piece accordingly upon receiving any reactions.

It should be pointed out that Cruise, which is backed by GM, had its license to function rescinded due to a succession of safety problems. An autonomous Chevrolet Bolt was engaged in a car accident, leading to a bystander being dragged for 20 feet and sustaining injuries. However, more details will be discussed about this incident later on.

In the following months, there were numerous reports claiming that Cruise automobiles had difficulties in detecting young children and large pits on the road. Adding to the predicament, it was revealed that the company was aware of these malfunctions but continued to assure the public of their cars’ safety. In the last couple of years, numerous disturbances have been caused by Cruise vehicles in San Francisco.

In the midst of heated debates, Kyle Vogt, the CEO and co-founder of Cruise, made public his resignation in the previous year. Consequently, the company significantly reduced its activities, focusing solely on one city. In addition, Dan Kan, co-founder of the company, has also relinquished his position.

Despite not having as many incidents as Cruise, Waymo has also faced its fair share of controversies. According to Forbes, the company has recorded a higher number of car crashes in a span of two years. Specifically, between July 2021 and July 2023, Waymo, which is under Alphabet’s ownership, reported 150 collisions to the NHTSA. This figure stands in contrast to Cruise’s lower tally of only 78 reported accidents.

According to Waymo, their technology is known as the “World’s Most Experienced Driver” and has successfully traveled millions of miles on public roads, in addition to billions more in simulation miles. The company proudly states that their data proves the Waymo Driver is effectively decreasing traffic fatalities and injuries in the cities where it is currently in operation.

To summarize, it seems that Waymo may be held responsible for the mistakes of Cruise, despite having superior technology in many aspects. And the damaging attention surrounding Cruise has not come to an end; sources say that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the US Justice Department are investigating the company for the incident involving a pedestrian.

Opponents of self-driving technology are urging authorities to pause the development of autonomous vehicles due to worries about safety. In response, Cruise has released a report detailing their investigation of a recent incident. Although the condition of the injured individual has not been disclosed, the company – backed by General Motors – states that its top officials were excessively preoccupied with the incorrect media portrayal that solely blamed their self-driving car for the collision, rather than acknowledging the role of the other driver.

According to the statement, the causes of Cruise’s shortcomings in this particular case are plentiful. These include inadequate leadership, errors in decision-making, failure to collaborate effectively with regulators, and a divisive mindset of “us versus them.” Additionally, there was a fundamental misunderstanding on Cruise’s part of its responsibilities to be accountable and transparent to both the government and the general public.

Is it permissible for Waymo to continue conducting its operations? Is the response of San Francisco disproportionate? Share your opinions in the comment section below.

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