California allows paid robotaxi rides in San Francisco 24/7

Robotaxi companies Waymo and Cruise can deploy paid taxi rides in San Francisco every day of the week, night and day. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) made the decision after a seven-hour public hearing. For autonomous driving companies, the approval is a capital step forward.

Driverless robotaxis were already allowed in San Francisco for over a year, and commercial operations were approved as of this year. Waymo got the approval in February but didn’t yet start charging fares. Cruise took its first paid customer aboard last month.

‘A huge victory’

With a vote of three to one, the CPUC has now decided that both Waymo and Cruise can now faster start earning some money back on the millions they already invested in their autonomous driving cars by allowing them in service 24/7.

Co-CEO of Waymo Tekedra Mawakana called the decision “a huge victory” for autonomous driving vehicles. Waymo was the first to offer paid autonomous taxi rides – in a first phase governed by a human backup driver – when it started offering ride-hailing in downtown Phoenix in March 2022. Half a year later, that service was expanded to an airport shuttle service. The company operates roughly 700 autonomous vehicles.

At Cruise, a subdivision of General Motors with 242 cars in its fleet, CEO Kyle Vogt applauded the approval of the state of California for “prioritizing progress over tragic status quo”. Cruise engaged its first autonomous driving car in San Francisco in 2015.

‘Dangerous for employment’

During the public hearing, less favorable voices opposed greenlighting commercial autonomous taxi riding. These opponents called the robocars “surveillance tools, dangerous for disabled people and employment”. City officials tried to delay the state vote based on several incidents involving blocked traffic and emergency vehicles not making their way through.

The CPUC answered that both companies met their legal obligations. The president of the Commission said that he expected these firms to collaborate with the first aid sector and police to address problems.

The United States is in an AV technology race with China, where driverless ride-hailing for commercial operations has been launched for over a year. Currently, four megacities support the service without a backup driver: Beijing, Wuhan, Chongqing, and Shenzhen.


Ready to join the conversation?

You must be an active subscriber to leave a comment.

Subscribe Today

You Might Also Like

%d bloggers like this: