CPUC delays vote on expanding autonomous cars in San Francisco

ByRyan Curry KGO logo
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
CPUC delays vote on expanding autonomous cars in SF
The California Public Utilities Commission delayed the vote on expanding autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The California Public Utilities Commission delayed the vote on expanding autonomous vehicles in San Francisco. The vote was originally scheduled for Thursday, but now wont be held until Aug. 10.

"It is a big yellow flag in the end," said Pete Bigelow, a senior reporter with Automotive News who specializes in autonomous vehicle reporting. "It is a vote for the status quo. A yellow flag because there is problems with ongoing operations in the city."

The CPUC told ABC7 News a commissioner requested the postponement but didn't offer any details why. Bigelow believes the delay is due to companies Cruise and Waymo not providing enough data to the CPUC. ABC7 has documents multiple incidents where cars would stall in the middle of the road or block emergency crews.

"The City of San Francisco in particular, is looking for data on these incidents and they are not getting exactly what they want," Bigelow said.

In a June CPUC meeting, representatives from Cruise and Waymo were not able to provide data on "MRCs" or minimal risk conditions when asked by the board.

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"We are not opposed to reporting any minimal risk conditions, we just think there is some the CPUC commission is trying to get at," said Jose Alvarado, a Cruise senior manager, during the meeting. "Not every MRC leads to a noteworthy event. Sometimes it's, I want to say a nothing burger."

"We don't currently have something that matches what is being proposed here and that is something we would have to develop," said Waymo's Allison Drutchas, during the meeting.

In a response to the CPUC vote delay, Cruise said:

"Autonomous vehicles are used by thousands of California residents and have a strong safety record. We should be doing everything possible to quickly and safely scale this technology and combat a horrific status quo."

Waymo said:

Every single day of delay in deploying this live-saving autonomous driving technology has critical impacts on road safety. We are disappointed by the CPUC's continued delay on Waymo's deployment permit and look forward to its swift resolution.

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Allison Drutchas, during the meeting:

"Experts still think AVs have the potential to be a much safer alternative to cars with drivers."

A lot of accidents are not accidents, they are human errors," said Dr. Steven Polzin, a professor or engineering and transit research at Arizona State University. "We still have in the 30 to 40% of fatality accidents associated with a drug impaired or a drunk driver for example. We wouldn't technically have those kinds of issues with autonomous cars."

He thinks the technology still has a ways to go, but says there could be a future where all cars are AVs.

"We are clearly on our way to autonomous control of all kinds of vehicles" he said. "But folks have been saying we are close to broad deployment, but they have been saying that for decades."

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