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California Regulators Give Google’s Waymo a Red Light on Expanding Robotaxi Operations

Google-owned Waymo’s plans to expand its robotaxi service beyond San Francisco have hit a snag after being delayed by California regulators.

TechCrunch reports that Google-owned Waymo’s plans to expand its commercial robotaxi service beyond its current San Francisco operating area have hit a temporary roadblock. The California Public Utilities Commission’s Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division (CPED) recently announced a 120-day suspension of Waymo’s application to offer driverless taxi services in additional parts of Los Angeles County and San Mateo County.

The suspension reportedly allows CPED staff additional time to review Waymo’s application to expand its operational design domain (ODD). The ODD defines the geographic area where the company’s autonomous vehicles can legally operate.

While the suspension does not affect Waymo’s current San Francisco service, it delays the company’s ability to expand operations elsewhere in California until at least June. The California DMV had already approved Waymo’s ODD expansion request last month.

Some local officials expressed satisfaction with the CPED’s decision to halt the immediate expansion. San Mateo County supervisor David Canepa said the pause “will provide the opportunity to fully engage the autonomous vehicle maker on our very real public safety concerns.” He cited “dangerous situations for firefighters and police” caused by robotaxis in neighboring San Francisco.

Waymo claims it has conducted outreach to two dozen government and business entities in San Mateo County during its expansion planning process. However, the city of South San Francisco is among those formally opposing the proposal.

On the Los Angeles side, Waymo has provided free driverless rides to approved members of the public in Santa Monica since last March. The CPED suspension prevents the company from yet offering a full commercial robotaxi service in Southern California and charging for rides.

While other companies like Cruise also operate autonomous taxi fleets in San Francisco currently, Waymo had been moving rapidly to expand its geographic footprint. The CPED decision represents a speed bump in those plans, even if the suspension proves temporary.

Earlier this month, Breitbart News reported on a Waymo robotaxi striking a bicyclist in San Francisco:

The Waymo vehicle was stopped at a four-way stop when a large truck began turning into the intersection, according to a statement from Waymo spokesperson Julia Ilina. The Waymo car waited for its turn and then proceeded into the intersection, failing to identify the cyclist who was traveling behind the truck.

“The cyclist was occluded by the truck and quickly followed behind it, crossing into the Waymo vehicle’s path,” Ilina explained. “When they became fully visible, our vehicle applied heavy braking but was not able to avoid the collision.”

-Breitbart

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