Waymo Secures California Approval to Expand Robotaxi Service

Alphabet-owned brand ramps up operations in LA and SF.

Waymo is gearing up to extend its autonomous driving initiatives throughout the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, after receiving the green light from the California Public Utilities Commission.

Despite facing opposition from community members, the state commission has announced plans to extend its driverless services to several prominent cities in California. The Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division of CPUC has given its approval for Waymo’s revised Passenger Safety Plan and granted permission for the expansion of their Driverless Deployment service to Los Angeles and the San Francisco Peninsula. In an approval letter, it states that Waymo is now permitted to commence paid driverless passenger operations in the designated areas, effective immediately.

Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet, has not yet made any official announcement regarding the update. CarBuzz reached out to the autonomous driving entity in order to inquire about its strategies for increasing its fleet and how this may impact its future endeavors.

Recently, the city of San Francisco filed a lawsuit against California regulators in an effort to prevent a concerning situation from occurring. The city’s attorney initially urged the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to delay making a ruling on investigating safety concerns surrounding self-driving vehicles. This request was granted last week, but ultimately, Waymo – the company at the center of the controversy – has still achieved the end result they desired.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation was one of the groups that expressed their opposition towards the result. They stated that “unimpeded service expansion without local consultation, collaboration, and oversight” would have a negative impact on both autonomous vehicle technology and the city of Los Angeles. The department also emphasized the importance of Senate Bill 915, which aims to give more control to local authorities over the deployment of AVs. They believe that any expansion of AV deployment should be put on hold until the bill is resolved.

This endorsement is the result of a shift in the autonomous vehicle industry. In recent times, there has been a decline in the general perception of self-driving taxis.

Cruise, the main competitor of Waymo, has put a pause on all operations due to a barrage of difficulties, prompting CEO Kyle Vogt to step down. Past incidents included a significant collision involving a pedestrian, where a Cruise driverless car dragged the individual after being pushed into its path by another vehicle. Although the Cruise-owned Chevy Bolt EV was not the primary impactor, it still dragged the victim for 20 feet before coming to a stop. Additionally, a report revealed that Cruise autonomous vehicles had difficulty detecting children and large potholes on the road.

Waymo may have faced a lesser number of issues, but that does not necessarily absolve them from any wrongdoing – as exemplified by a recent incident involving one of their self-driving Jaguar I-Pace SUVs colliding with a cyclist. In the wake of another peculiar occurrence involving two of their vehicles, the company has recently issued a voluntary recall.Despite possibly encountering fewer difficulties, Waymo’s track record is not without blemishes. Earlier this year, there was a collision between a cyclist and one of the company’s autonomous Jaguar I-Pace SUVs. Currently, the company has initiated a voluntary recall in response to an unusual occurrence involving two of its vehicles.

The technology still has room for improvement, however, field trials are essential in perfecting it.

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