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Waymo gets approval to expand self-driving taxi service on the San Francisco Peninsula

Waymo gets approval to expand self-driving service on the Peninsula
Waymo gets approval to expand self-driving service on the Peninsula 02:44

With approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the DMV, Waymo's self-driving taxis, which are seen frequently in San Francisco, have the green light to operate on the Peninsula.

The move is getting pushback from state and local officials, including San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa.

"It looks like we're bringing the San Francisco circus to town at higher speeds," he said.

Canepa said he is not against the technology itself but he thinks it is rolling out too quickly.

"My greatest worry is you take Highway 101 and use it as your science project," he said. "You're taking it in San Francisco at 15 to 35 miles an hour. Now, you're taking that at speeds that kill, frankly."

The CPUC decision came as somewhat of a surprise to Canepa. In mid-February, the agency issued a 120-day suspension of Waymo's expansion request, not as a punitive measure but so the commission would have ample time to review the request.

However, Canepa said local concerns have not been addressed.

"We believe that we will have the ability to appeal this administrative ruling," he said. "This is the prime example of why government is so important in making sure that we regulate this technology so that we make it as safe as we can for people to travel."

Canepa isn't alone in his concerns.

State senator Dave Cortese D-San Jose) issued the following statement after the decision was rendered.

"While we support the innovation of autonomous vehicle technology, it's crucial that regulation occurs at both state and local levels to maintain the public safety standards that California upholds for all vehicles on our roads. My SB 915 will empower local communities with oversight over autonomous vehicles, ensuring that the safety of our streets is a collaborative effort between state and local authorities. My bill isn't about eliminating state oversight but augmenting it with local expertise to protect pedestrians, school zones, cyclists, and other motorists."

After the decision, Waymo provided the following statement.

"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. We're incredibly grateful for the riders and community partners who have supported our service to date — including +15,000 rides thus far in LA — and we're looking forward to bringing the benefits of fully autonomous ride-hailing to more people."

Canepa doesn't share the confidence in the technology, just yet.

"I don't think it's there just yet," he said. "Convince us and convince these departments. Convince our constituents that it's safe," he said.

Although Waymo received the green light to operate on the Peninsula, the company does not have a timeline for how it will roll out service. A company spokesperson said they will continue to work closely with local communities and cities as they grow their service.

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