San Francisco asks CPUC to pump brakes on robotaxi expansion, or city may 'suffer serious harm'

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Friday, August 18, 2023
SF asks CPUC to pump brakes on robotaxi expansion
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San Francisco officials want state regulators with CPUC to pump the brakes on its recent approval of Cruise and Waymo's service expansion.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco officials want state regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to pump the brakes on its recent approval of Cruise and Waymo's service expansion. They claim the city may "suffer serious harm."

"San Francisco is really the experimental lab for this industry," SF City Attorney David Chiu told ABC7 News. "And we think it's critical that they work with the city to make sure that our residents are safe and that they're not interfering with our first responders, traffic flow, public transit, etc."

City Attorney Chiu is leading the effort. Motions filed on Wednesday come less than a week after the CPUC voted to let the companies charge for driverless rides around the clock.

Waymo will start charging for rides next Monday. Cruise is already accepting fares.

RELATED: San Francisco officials consider action against CPUC's decision for 24/7 robotaxi rides

"Let me make clear, we're not asking to get rid of all automated vehicles on the streets of San Francisco," Chiu said. "With this motion, we're asking the CPUC to really preserve current policy while we're seeking a rehearing."

According to the motions, part of the argument from city officials is the commission failed to consider the environmental impacts robotaxis would have on the city, under the state's Environmental Quality Act.

Chiu said data on dangerous incidents have also been inadequate.

"From our perspective, we're simply asking for a pause so that we can have this conversation before a very significant expansion and commercial deployment by these companies," Chiu added.

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In a response to the filings, a Cruise spokesperson told ABC7 News:

"The CPUC's decision was the result of a months-long process that saw public input and support from accessibility groups, labor unions, and community advocates--culminating in a six hour public comment period where the majority supported expanded AV access. It's unfortunate to see the city use public resources to bypass that decision and restrict a technology with an excellent safety record used by tens of thousands of SF residents."

ABC7 News also reached out to Waymo.

RELATED: Historic weekend as driverless cars navigate through streets of San Francisco

"We need to do our jobs. We need to make sure that our residents are safe, we need to make sure that first responders get on to critical crisis scenes," Chiu said in response. "We need to make sure that public transit and the flow of traffic are operating as they should. And we need to do this yesterday."

ABC7 News reached out to the CPUC for a response to the recent filings as well.

Chiu said, "This decision by the CPUC, to allow for unfettered expansion, does not allow us to engage in this important conversation and at its heart, we need to make sure that if you're deploying new powerful technologies that safety is the top priority."

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