CPUC clears path for Waymo robotaxi expansion to Peninsula and LA

Waymo's driverless taxis are a common sight on San Francisco streets, and now the company has received a green light to expand its robotaxi service.

Waymo will roll out service along the Peninsula and Silicon Valley, as well as Los Angeles. The autonomous vehicle company is based in Mountain View and is a subsidiary of Google's parent company, Alphabet.

The California Public Utility Commission's announcement Friday said it received 81 letters in support of Waymo's expansion and five objections from South San Francisco, San Mateo County, Los Angeles Dept. of Transportation, San Francisco Transportation Authority and the San Francisco Taxi Workers.

"This was an irresponsible decision by the PUC," said San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Canepa.

Canepa says the county's opposition is due to concerns about safety and wanting more communication with Waymo to address the issues with local stakeholders.

"I'm not against technology. I just don't think it's ready yet," Canepa said. "We're trying to put guardrails in making sure that local jurisdictions have local control."

A bill by San Jose State Senator Dave Cortese is calling for more local power to oversee autonomous vehicles.

Ethan Elkind is Director of the Climate Program at UC Berkeley Law's Center for Law, Energy & the Environment.


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"The DMV in some ways has primary authority. They're the ones taking all the accident reports. It's very transparent," Elkind said. "The CPUC regulates them as a taxi service."

Elkind says nationwide, states have maintained primary authority over autonomous vehicles.

"I don't know of any states that give local governments any kind of formal role or veto over jurisdiction over autonomous vehicles," Elkind said.

Some people say they'd be glad to catch a ride.

"I heard or actually read that it's been through a lot of trials and it's pretty safe, so I would do it, yes," Toukhig Arslanian of San Mateo said.

Others say they feel the approval is too fast, and want a slower rollout.

"I would say I'm not really for them right now. I mean let them develop them and all that, but I just, I worry at the speed of things," Neal Luczkiewicz of Palo Alto said.

KTVU reached out to Waymo for comment and received a statement that read in part, "We’re grateful to the CPUC for this vote of confidence in our operations, which paves the way for the deployment of our commercial Waymo One service in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Peninsula."

"As always, we’ll take a careful and incremental approach to expansion by continuing to work closely with city officials, local communities and our partners to ensure we’re offering a service that’s safe, accessible and valuable to our riders."

On Friday night, the Waymo app did not show any taxi service for the expanded area and a spokesperson said no date has been set for starting up service.