The move comes after driverless taxis have caused mayhem on the city’s streets.
San Francisco city officials have sent letters to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) asking to slow or halt the expansion of robotaxi services in the city. NBC News reports that San Francisco Transportation Authority (SFTA) officials wrote that uncontrolled deployment would be “unreasonable” in light of recent safety incidents in which vehicles blocked traffic and interfered with emergency vehicles.
Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors’s Cruise both operate fully driverless services in the city. In this case, “fully” driverless means that there is no human backup for the vehicles.
Cruise was originally approved to operate robotaxis, but only in certain parts of the city by the bay, and only between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Since then, the company has also been approved for daytime rides in the city, but it still needs authorization from the California Public Utilities Commission to extend the hours of its commercial service.
Waymo originally offered fully autonomous taxis in Phoenix, Arizona but expanded their program to San Francisco in 2021. Cruise and Waymo are currently racing to see who will be the first to offer 24-hour robotaxi services in the tech-loving City by the Bay.
A push for “incremental” expansions of the program
“A series of limited deployments with incremental expansions — rather than unlimited authorizations — offer the best path toward public confidence in driving automation and industry success in San Francisco and beyond,” the letter reads.
Robotaxis operated by Cruise and Waymo haven’t caused any fatal accidents on San Francisco streets, but there have been repeated incidents of driverless vehicles stopping in the middle of the road for no reason, causing rear-end collisions by braking abruptly, interfering with firefighting, and being a general menace to traffic in the city.
The SFTA letter continues: “While the Commission should consider each of these advice letters on their own merits, it should also be mindful of the cumulative effects on the city’s transportation network if these problems in Cruise operations continue and are replicated by similar problems from Waymo”.
“We urge the Commission to understand recent road and transit blockages as a message to proceed with caution and to continue its incremental approach to approving driverless [robotaxi] expansion”, SFTA said.