Waymo and Cruise, two major players in the self-driving car industry, have received licenses from the California Public Utilities Commission to operate their robotaxi services without a safety driver in San Francisco. The commission’s decision allows these companies to have their self-driving cars on the road at all times of the day and night throughout the city.
Before this decision, Cruise was only allowed to operate without a safety driver in specific areas from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., while Waymo could only offer passenger services with a safety driver. However, the commission’s decision now allows them both to operate fully autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.
In response to concerns about safety and accountability, the commission has asked Waymo and Cruise to increase engagement with the Department of Motor Vehicles and law enforcement agencies. Additionally, they are encouraged to collaborate more with residents and city officials to address any community concerns.
This decision has generated mixed opinions among residents. Some praise the services for assisting disabled riders, while others worry about potential job losses and impacts on emergency vehicles. The San Francisco Fire Department has claimed that self-driving cars have hindered their operations 66 times in the first half of this year. In relation to people with disabilities, the Paratransit Coordinating Council of San Francisco expressed concerns that driverless cars could put them at a disadvantage.
As a form of protest, some residents have placed traffic cones on the hoods of self-driving cars, claiming that it causes them to stall. Despite these concerns, Waymo and Cruise are excited about the decision, with Waymo referring to it as the “true beginning” of their commercial operations in San Francisco.
One notable aspect surrounding this decision is the potential conflict of interest, as one of the commissioners used to work for Cruise. Nevertheless, the commission ultimately granted the licenses to Waymo and Cruise.
While the commission’s decision allows for the expansion of self-driving car services, the issue of accountability in the event of accidents involving completely autonomous vehicles remains unresolved. As the popularity of self-driving cars grows, addressing safety concerns and ensuring accountability will be critical for the future of this technology.
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