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Los Angeles City Council votes to monitor driverless vehicles

CBS News Live
CBS News Los Angeles Live

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to bolster their ability to regulate driverless vehicles as concerns rise.

Council members approved recommendations to monitor and address issues with autonomous vehicles in the city. The council also backed three bills in the state Legislature aimed at providing municipalities more power to regulate AVs, and to gain access to testing data.

The city's chief legislative analyst made the recommendations after the City Council adopted a motion introduced by council members Traci Park and Bob Blumenfield in November 2023. The motion called for gathering more information around local, state and federal laws that govern the use of AVs; options for the city to gain access to testing data; and opportunities to support legislation that would empower Los Angeles elected officials in regulating AVs within city limits.

In March, the California Public Utilities Commission authorized AV company Waymo to expand its operations in the Los Angeles area. The company then launched Waymo One, a driverless ride-hailing service in a 63-square mile area stretching from Santa Monica and Venice to downtown Los Angeles.

RELATED: Waymo begins charging for Los Angeles driverless taxi service, ending the freebies

Waymo had been testing some of its vehicles in Los Angeles since October 2023, and company officials have said more than 15,000 rides occurred during that time.

Waymo had already offered service in San Francisco and Phoenix. In addition to Los Angeles, the company also began operations in Austin, Tex. 

Some questions have been raised about the safety of the AV technology.

The Los Angeles Times reported that a Waymo vehicle struck a closing gate at USC. Company officials said the car had just dropped off passengers and was leaving the campus when it approached the gate, which closed on the car, causing some minor scratches.

Waymo released data that showed its vehicles experience an 85% reduction in injury-causing crashes and a 57% reduction in police-reported crash rates compared to human-driven vehicles. Waymo compiled the data from 7.14 million miles of autonomous vehicle rides conducted in the Los Angeles area, Phoenix and San Francisco.

The U.S. National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 gives the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the power to investigate vehicle crashes and ensure that vehicle manufacturers comply with federal motor vehicle safety standards. In 2021, the agency was given the authority to monitor safety of AV technology.

In California, a limited number of AV companies are allowed to test, research and pilot AV programs on public streets in designated locations as a result of SB 1298, authored by then-state Sen. Alex Padilla and signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012.

Under the bill, the Department of Motor Vehicles has the power to regulate the testing and deployment of AV technology. In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission has jurisdiction over passenger safety and businesses that transport passengers, such as buses and trains, and rideshare app companies like Uber and Lyft.

In 2018, the commission began two AV pilot programs, which allow companies to operate AV technology with the requirement that permits be obtained from the DMV and comply with DMV regulations. 

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