San Francisco has formally requested state regulators redo an August hearing that expanded robotaxi permits for Cruise and Waymo, giving each corporations permission to widen industrial operations all through town 24/7.
The contentious resolution was met with a lot opposition as metropolis companies and residents questioned the far-reaching influence of the expansions. The permits present no limitations on geographic space, service hours or fleet dimension, one thing opponents say may result in uncapped numbers of robotaxis roaming the streets. Nor is there a requirement that Cruise or Waymo report the incidents of robotaxis malfunctioning and “bricking” in visitors, blocking the movement of different street customers, public transit and first responders.
SF City Attorney David Chiu filed the request on behalf of metropolis transit and planning officers. Chiu had additionally requested a short lived halt of the expansions days after the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) hearing, however the company by no means responded. The metropolis’s functions, which had been filed Monday, reiterate the request for a short lived pause.
“These vehicles may be able to drive themselves, but they can’t regulate themselves,” stated Chiu in a press release. “The CPUC must do that to protect passenger and public safety. Since the CPUC’s decision to allow unfettered expansion of AVs for commercial passenger service in San Francisco, AVs have continued to present safety risks and interfere with first responders.”
Chiu urged the CPUC to rethink its resolution, accusing the company of utilizing a flawed approval course of and ignoring public security hazards and potential environmental impacts of AVs.
“AV technology has a place in San Francisco, but we’re concerned it is not yet capable of safely operating in our complex transportation environment,” continued Chiu.
The CPUC’s major function is to advertise the general public curiosity by making certain protected, dependable and reasonably priced utility providers. As lengthy as Cruise and Waymo’s providers meet these necessities, the CPUC doesn’t have the authority to restrict them. The company voted in favor of allow expansions in August as a result of it didn’t anticipate the robotaxi providers to lead to important security dangers.
Both Cruise and Waymo automobiles have been concerned in collisions, however to date, no human has died because of these collisions, and accidents have been minimal. That stated, within the aftermath of the CPUC hearing, a Cruise car was concerned in a crash with a fireplace truck, which injured one passenger. The California Department of Motor Vehicles ordered Cruise to right away scale back its fleet by 50% whereas it investigates “recent concerning incidents.”
Most of the opposite “concerning incidents” not too long ago (and over the previous 12 months) have concerned primarily Cruise automobiles bricking in the midst of public roads. On August 16, 10 Cruise robotaxis stalled, making a gridlock in North Beach for about 20 minutes throughout one of many metropolis’s greatest music festivals.
Cruise’s public backlash got here to a head in early September after a San Francisco Fire Department report accused a Cruise robotaxi of blocking an ambulance carrying a passenger who later died, an accusation Cruise denied. Protestors rallied final week outdoors Cruise’s headquarters in protest. TechCrunch considered the footage and confirmed that Cruise didn’t hinder the actions of the ambulance. The fireplace division later clarified that Cruise was not at fault.
However, the injury to Cruise’s repute was achieved, and the incident supplied a stark picture of what may occur if a Cruise car bricked in entrance of an ambulance on, say, a one-way road with minimal house for the ambulance to get round it.
“The companies are not required to report—or even to track—such important incidents and interference events,” reads town legal professional’s request. “As a result, San Francisco’s analysis of these incidents depends entirely on happenstance reports from members of the public and affected City employees.”
Cruise and Waymo did share some information throughout an August assembly with metropolis stakeholders and the CPUC to handle issues earlier than the company’s vote. According to Cruise’s information, from January 1 to July 18, 2023, there have been 177 “vehicle retrieval events,” that are situations of a bricked Cruise robotaxi that should be picked up by a human. The common decision time was 14 minutes.
Waymo’s information confirmed 58 retrieval occasions, averaging 10 minutes for decision, from January 1 to June 30, 2023.
City officers stated these occasions solely make up a subset of the full variety of sudden stops. Between April 2022 and April 2023, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) collected a complete of 261 incidents involving a Cruise car and 85 involving a Waymo. Those incidents embrace a number of kinds of driving conduct, together with sudden stops, erratic driving, points with pickup and drop-off, and collisions.
The metropolis legal professional’s workplace requests that the CPUC not solely undertake new reporting necessities for AV corporations, however that these experiences be made public with out redactions. Those experiences ought to accumulate information on month-to-month drivered and driverless car miles traveled by county, road intereference incidents, all crashes and excessive threat violations. The request additionally asks the CPUC to think about making certain that AV expansion is granted in an incremental, performance-based method in order that it doesn’t generate “widespread new hazards for travelers and the general public.”
“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,” Navideh Forghani, a spokesperson for Cruise, instructed TechCrunch. “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.”
“We fully support the CPUC’s carefully considered decision to authorize Waymo to charge fares for driverless rides,” stated Waymo spokesperson Katherine Barna. “We will follow this development closely, and in the meantime, we will continue to work with the city of San Francisco in constructive ways while providing safe and accessible mobility to San Franciscans.”
…. to be continued
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