Waymo and Cruise received victories in San Francisco, with the two robotaxi providers receiving approval to operate their driverless cars 24/7 in the city. The approval came after a six-hour public meeting which saw both supporters and critics of robotaxis expressing their thoughts on the matter.
As noted in a report from The Verge, residents who were opposed to the Cruise and Waymo robotaxis cited incidents involving the driverless vehicles malfunctioning and breaking down in the middle of intersections and streets, among other concerns. Supporters of Cruise and Waymo, on the other hand, argued that the robotaxis are safer than human drivers and they hold a lot of potential for disabled riders.
Ultimately, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted 3-1 in favor of allowing Waymo and Cruise to operate their robotaxis 24/7 in San Francisco. The vehicles will be able to operate similarly to Uber or Lyft, with the robotaxis traveling anywhere in the city at any time of the day. Waymo and Cruise can also charge fees for the rides themselves.
At the end of the meeting, CPUC Commissioner John Reynolds noted that the decision was the first step in the mainstream application of autonomous driving technology. “Today is the first of many steps in bringing AV transportation services to Californians,” Reynolds said.
Waymo celebrated the CPUC’s decision, noting that it was a “major moment” in the history and development of autonomous vehicles. Tekedra Mawakana, co-CEO of Waymo, issued a comment about the matter. “Today’s permit marks the true beginning of our commercial operations in San Francisco. We’re incredibly grateful for this vote of confidence from the CPUC, and to the communities and riders who have supported our service. We can’t wait for more San Franciscans to experience the mobility, safety, sustainability and accessibility benefits of full autonomy for themselves — all at the touch of a button” the executive said.
Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt, for his part, also praised the decision. “It’s a huge milestone for the AV industry, but even more importantly a signal to the country that CA prioritizes progress over our tragic status quo. We share the CPUC’s commitment to delivering safer, cleaner and more accessible transportation options, and remain committed to collaborating closely with regulators to push toward this critical goal. Let’s Criuse!” Vogt wrote on X.