The California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) has voted in favour of allowing Cruise and Waymo to expand their autonomous robotaxi operations in San Francisco.

Despite opposition from some residents and city agencies, as well as a plea for caution from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), this vote will enable Cruise and Waymo to operate 24/7 across San Francisco without a limit on the number of deployed vehicles.

The commission voted 3:1 in support of these expansions.

Waymo's autonomous ride-hailing vehicles
Waymo’s autonomous ride-hailing vehicle

With this vote, CPUC has granted the companies a driverless deployment permit, marking the final step in enabling them to offer a paid fully autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco.

In the coming weeks, they will thus begin charging fares for rider-only trips in the city.

Tekedra Mawakana, Co-CEO of Waymo said:

Today’s permit marks the true beginning of our commercial operations in San Francisco. 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.

In the build-up to this vote, both Cruise and Waymo have emphasised the positive safety benefits they believe autonomous vehicles have. For example, Cruise launched an advertising campaign based on the fact that “humans are terrible drivers.”

The need to improve road safety is supported by the fact that nearly 43,000 people died on US roads in 2022, providing an average of 117 per day. By removing human error and irresponsible driving behaviours, the companies believe autonomous vehicles could help reduce this figure.


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