San Mateo Co. files appeal with state regulators over Waymo's driverless taxi expansion

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Thursday, March 14, 2024
San Mateo Co. appeals after approval of Waymo expansion
San Mateo County files appeal with state regulators over the fast approval of Waymo's driverless taxi expansion.

SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The driverless car service, Waymo, has said it will be starting rides in Los Angeles on Thursday, after getting the green light from state regulators earlier this month.

But for San Mateo County, Waymo is facing an uphill battle.

"I don't want to hear about any more accidents in the way or hurting anybody or being in the way of an emergency vehicle," said Wendy Cohen, a Daly City resident.

Some drivers in Daly City worry the technology isn't ready.

MORE: CA approves Waymo robotaxi operations in San Mateo County, LA

"Maybe in the near future, but it's too dangerous. With the things that happen, the accidents, it's unusual to see a vehicle with no one driving it, so I think we need more time to get these cars ready for the road," said Ron Ratti, a San Francisco resident.

Waymo's expansion across the state was temporarily suspended last month when county supervisors asked for a review period.

It was expected to last up to 120 days, but it got the green light after 11 days, after the CPUC says Waymo updated their "passenger safety plan."

"It was truly a slap in the face," said David Canepa, a San Mateo County supervisor.

MORE: Waymo's robotaxi expansion beyond SF temporarily suspended as part of review

Now, less than two weeks later, Supervisor Canepa says the county has filed an appeal with the enforcement arm of the CPUC.

"What we're asking is for them to really consider what we had said in our initial letter. just this communication of working with public works on infrastructure, working with the fire department, working with the sheriff's department," he said. "To this date, Waymo hasn't talked to our department heads."

Citing a number of recent safety incidents in San Francisco, he says he also wants transparency.

"Show me through the data how it's working, show me how it makes people safe, show me and others in the community how the technology is deployed and works," he said.

"This is like beyond the wild west. I mean, I think they had more rules in each town during the wild west days than we have with autonomous vehicles right now," said State Senator Dave Cortese.

MORE: Here's how SB 915 aims to make autonomous vehicle regulation safer at the local level

Which is why South Bay Senator Cortese is working to pass SB 915, which would give local governments control over autonomous cars, instead of the state.

It's a bill already formally supported by the counties of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Mateo as well as the city of Oakland through their own resolutions.

"We need to be just as quick as the government to recognize the fact that we need to create a system right away to do just modest regulations, modest controls, ordinary, normal traffic controls -- to make things safe for our community," Cortese said. "That's only going to happen if we get our local cities involved."

Waymo says they "will continue to engage in CPUC's process and remain committed to our long-term approach of dialogue and partnership with city officials."

Waymo added that they haven't expanded service into San Mateo County yet and there is no set timeline for those plans either.

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