San Francisco requests redo on Cruise, Waymo robotaxi expansion hearing

San Francisco requests redo on Cruise, Waymo robotaxi expansion hearing

San Francisco has formally requested state regulators redo an August listening to that expanded robotaxi permits for Cruise and Waymo, giving each corporations permission to widen industrial operations all through town 24/7.

The contentious choice was met with a lot opposition as metropolis businesses and residents questioned the far-reaching impression of the expansions. The permits present no limitations on geographic space, service hours or fleet dimension, one thing opponents say may result in uncapped numbers of robotaxis roaming the streets. Neither is there a requirement that Cruise or Waymo report the incidents of robotaxis malfunctioning and “bricking” in visitors, blocking the move of different street customers, public transit and first responders.

SF Metropolis Lawyer David Chiu filed the request on behalf of metropolis transit and planning officers. Chiu had additionally requested a brief halt of the expansions days after the California Public Utilities Fee’s (CPUC) listening to, however the company by no means responded. Town’s purposes, which have been filed Monday, reiterate the request for a brief pause.

“These automobiles could possibly drive themselves, however they’ll’t regulate themselves,” stated Chiu in a press release. “The CPUC should try this to guard passenger and public security. For the reason that CPUC’s choice to permit unfettered enlargement of AVs for industrial passenger service in San Francisco, AVs have continued to current security dangers and intervene with first responders.”

Chiu urged the CPUC to rethink its choice, accusing the company of utilizing a flawed approval course of and ignoring public security hazards and potential environmental impacts of AVs.

“AV know-how has a spot in San Francisco, however we’re involved it’s not but able to safely working in our advanced transportation setting,” continued Chiu.

The CPUC’s major position is to advertise the general public curiosity by guaranteeing protected, dependable and reasonably priced utility providers. So long as Cruise and Waymo’s providers meet these necessities, the CPUC doesn’t have the authority to restrict them. The company voted in favor of allow expansions in August as a result of it didn’t anticipate the robotaxi providers to lead to important security dangers.

Each Cruise and Waymo automobiles have been concerned in collisions, however up to now, no human has died on account of these collisions, and accidents have been minimal. That stated, within the aftermath of the CPUC listening to, a Cruise automobile was concerned in a crash with a hearth truck, which injured one passenger. The California Division of Motor Automobiles ordered Cruise to instantly scale back its fleet by 50% whereas it investigates “current regarding incidents.”

Many of the different “regarding incidents” not too long ago (and over the previous yr) have concerned primarily Cruise automobiles bricking in the course of public roads. On August 16, 10 Cruise robotaxis stalled, making a gridlock in North Seashore for about 20 minutes throughout one of many metropolis’s largest music festivals.

Cruise’s public backlash got here to a head in early September after a San Francisco Hearth Division report accused a Cruise robotaxi of blocking an ambulance carrying a passenger who later died, an accusation Cruise denied. Protestors rallied final week exterior Cruise’s headquarters in protest. TechCrunch considered the footage and confirmed that Cruise didn’t hinder the actions of the ambulance. The fireplace division later clarified that Cruise was not at fault.

Nevertheless, the harm to Cruise’s popularity was carried out, and the incident supplied a stark picture of what may occur if a Cruise automobile bricked in entrance of an ambulance on, say, a one-way avenue with minimal house for the ambulance to get round it.

“The businesses usually are not required to report—and even to trace—such vital incidents and interference occasions,” reads town legal professional’s request. “In consequence, San Francisco’s evaluation of those incidents relies upon fully on happenstance experiences from members of the general public and affected Metropolis workers.”

Cruise and Waymo did share some knowledge throughout an August assembly with metropolis stakeholders and the CPUC to handle considerations earlier than the company’s vote. In keeping with Cruise’s knowledge, from January 1 to July 18, 2023, there have been 177 “automobile retrieval occasions,” that are situations of a bricked Cruise robotaxi that have to be picked up by a human. The common decision time was 14 minutes.

Waymo’s knowledge confirmed 58 retrieval occasions, averaging 10 minutes for decision, from January 1 to June 30, 2023.

Metropolis officers stated these occasions solely make up a subset of the entire variety of surprising stops. Between April 2022 and April 2023, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Company (SFMTA) collected a complete of 261 incidents involving a Cruise automobile and 85 involving a Waymo. These incidents embody a number of sorts of driving conduct, together with surprising stops, erratic driving, points with pickup and drop-off, and collisions.

Town legal professional’s workplace requests that the CPUC not solely undertake new reporting necessities for AV corporations, however that these experiences be made public with out redactions. These experiences ought to acquire knowledge on month-to-month drivered and driverless automobile miles traveled by county, avenue intereference incidents, all crashes and excessive danger violations. The request additionally asks the CPUC to think about guaranteeing that AV enlargement is granted in an incremental, performance-based method in order that it doesn’t generate “widespread new hazards for vacationers and most of the people.”

“The CPUC’s choice was the results of a months-long course of that noticed public enter and help from accessibility teams, labor unions, and group advocates — culminating in a six-hour public remark interval the place the bulk supported expanded AV entry,” Navideh Forghani, a spokesperson for Cruise, informed TechCrunch. “It’s unlucky to see town use public sources to bypass that call and limit a know-how with a superb security document utilized by tens of 1000’s of SF residents.”

“We totally help the CPUC’s fastidiously thought of choice to authorize Waymo to cost fares for driverless rides,” stated Waymo spokesperson Katherine Barna. “We are going to observe this improvement intently, and within the meantime, we are going to proceed to work with town of San Francisco in constructive methods whereas offering protected and accessible mobility to San Franciscans.”


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