Cruise, Waymo get green light to give paid rides 24/7 across San Francisco

ByLyanne Melendez and Tim Johns KGO logo
Friday, August 11, 2023
Cruise, Waymo get green light to operate 24/7 in SF
CPUC votes to give Cruise and Waymo the green light to offer paid rides all hours of the day across San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Robotaxis now have the green light to operate in San Francisco.

After a contentious public hearing with hours of public comment, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on Thursday authorized Cruise and Waymo to begin offering paid rides to the public at all hours of the day and across San Francisco.

VIDEO: Journalist documents wild ride inside Waymo self-driving car in SF

ABC7 News reporter Lyanne Melendez tried out one of Waymo's self-driving vehicles for the first time. Watch as the ride takes a strange turn.

The historic decision makes San Francisco the first city in the world to have two companies offering fully operational paid autonomous driving taxi services and put autonomous vehicles on the fast track towards widespread use in California.

Hundreds of members of the public came to speak out for and against the expansion of robotaxi service in San Francisco.

The critics focused on many of the issues that had been raised over the last few months including incidents where the vehicles stalled in the middle of roads, blocking traffic and in some cases interfering with emergency responders.

Supporters said they felt like autonomous vehicles were safer than human drivers.

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Many vision-impaired people said they felt like the autonomous vehicles gave them a greater sense of freedom and security, allowing them to ride wherever they need to go without having to worry about harassment from rideshare drivers.

The vote to expand the use of robotaxis seemed like a certainty in May when the CPUC published a draft resolution, but vocal opposition from San Francisco officials has made for a bumpy ride for both companies since then.

The decision was delayed twice while the CPUC worked to get more robust data from Cruise and Waymo on incidents like stalled autonomous vehicles blocking traffic and robotaxis that drove into fire scenes or blocked streets.

Until now, robotaxis have been able to operate with time and location restrictions in San Francisco, but now anyone who downloads the Cruise or Waymo apps can use the service.

EXCLUSIVE: Video shows Cruise driverless car stalled on SF street for hours

Video taken by a San Francisco resident shows a Cruise driverless car stalled on a San Francisco street for hours, just near a freeway exit.

There will still be some geographic restrictions to where the vehicles can go as ABC7 News reporter Lyanne Melendez found out when she took test rides in Cruise and Waymo. The vehicles were unable to go to the destination that she selected because it had not yet been mapped by the companies, however, Cruise and Waymo say they are continuing to offer service to new areas.

While more people will now be able to ride, don't expect to see the streets flooded with robotaxis.

In previous interviews with ABC7 News, Cruise and Waymo have said they don't plan on immediately adding any new vehicles to the network, but will slowly increase their fleets.

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