Robotaxis Face Growing Pushback in U.S. California

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Driverless vehicles face increased pushbacks in California after the U.S. state regulators halted the operation for one robotaxi company while another was told their cars are not welcome.

Following a few high-profile accidents involving driverless car company Cruise, the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s licenses to test and deploy its vehicles and its ability to carry passengers on Tuesday.

Citing public safety concerns, the department’s decision has grounded the company’s fleet of about 150 robotaxis in San Francisco.

Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, opened a fully driverless taxi service to the public in San Francisco in early 2022.

The suspension was based on an accident on Oct. 2, in which a Cruise driverless car dragged a pedestrian first struck by a hit-and-run driver, thrown into an adjacent lane, and then hit a second time by the robotaxi.

Robotaxi oversight is regarded as a priority at Los Angeles City Hall. On Wednesday, the city council held a news conference to send a message that “robot taxis … do not belong in the city of Los Angeles.”

Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez said they “pose a threat to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists and risk putting countless workers out of work” and that “Los Angeles should not be a test subject for the tech industry.”

He also introduced a motion calling on the city attorney to join San Francisco to rein in robotaxi expansion.

San Francisco has formally requested the California Public Utilities Commission to reconsider its approval in August that expanded robotaxi permits for Cruise and Waymo, giving both companies permission for around-the-clock operations in the city.

The approval has caused much opposition as city agencies and residents questioned the far-reaching impact of the expansions.

Cruise and Waymo vehicles have been involved in collisions, but no death has been reported.

Waymo, formerly known as the Google self-driving car project, recently announced the expansion of a broader service in Los Angeles, which has also met opposition.

On Tuesday, labor unions rallied outside Google’s offices in Los Angeles, protesting the recent expansion of Waymo’s autonomous ride-hailing service. 

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