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Vote postponed on robotaxi expansion amid first responder backlash

Vote postponed on robotaxi expansion amid first responder backlash
Vote postponed on robotaxi expansion amid first responder backlash 03:09

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Public Utilities Commission was supposed to vote Wednesday on whether it would allow robotaxis companies Cruise and Waymo unlimited expansion on San Francisco streets, but the vote has been pushed back to July 13th.

According to Assistant Deputy Chief Darius Luttropp of the SF Fire Department (SFFD), an increasing number of non-life-threatening incidents involving self-driving cars are hindering their ability to respond effectively.

"These cars are on the streets's like these cars are in school right now, and we don't feel like they're quite ready to expand to the level they want to expand. We've asked to get more insight into the process of their operations," stated Luttropp.

The concerns raised by Luttropp come as the California Public Utilities Commission prepares to vote on allowing the unlimited expansion of robotaxis on public streets. However, vehicle safety experts, including Professor Philip Koopman from Carnegie Mellon University, argue that stricter requirements should be in place before approving such an expansion.

"These companies deployed without a driver to see how it worked out, and we found out that it's disrupting. So in response, they should do something to stop that disruption," emphasized Koopman.

Koopman suggests that having a person in the vehicles at all times until the issues are resolved could be a viable solution.

The SFMTA (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) reports that the number of incidents involving Cruise and Waymo, two prominent self-driving car companies, in March and April was nearly triple the number reported in the previous two months. As a result, the SFMTA recommends incremental expansion rather than implementing 24-hour service throughout the entire city.

We reached out to Cruise and Waymo for their comments on the matter. Waymo responded, stating, "We navigate and interact with active emergency vehicles (EVs) day and night, smoothly. The vast majority of these often challenging and complex encounters have been without issue."

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