Waymo California Expansion Gets Greenlight

The California Public Utilities Commission decision allows Waymo to expand its self-driving taxi services immediately

Graham Hope

March 4, 2024

3 Min Read
A Waymo autonomous vehicle turns onto Octavia Street from Oak Street in San Francisco, on Nov. 17, 2023.
JASON HENRY/AFP via Getty Images

State regulators have agreed to Waymo’s request to expand its self-driving taxi services into new areas of California.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has given the company the greenlight to operate in multiple areas of Los Angeles, plus extend its existing coverage in San Francisco to incorporate the Bay Area.

Waymo, owned by Google parent Alphabet, confirmed in January that it had applied to extend its driverless service.

The CPUC decision allows the company’s self-driving Jaguar I-Pace SUVs to operate at speeds of up to 65 mph on local roads and freeways in the approved areas.

As might be expected, the news has been welcomed by Waymo, which issued a statement pledging to take “a careful and incremental approach to expansion.”

But that is unlikely to appease a number of organizations and bodies strongly opposed to an extended rollout, particularly in a landscape where the whole idea of self-driving taxis is being questioned, following the recent problems suffered by Waymo’s key rival, General Motors-owned Cruise. 

Waymo itself has not been averse to negative headlines, either, having issued a software recall after two I-Pace AVs crashed into a pick-up being hauled by a tow truck in Phoenix, Arizona, and another incident in San Francisco when one of its taxis was in collision with a cyclist.

Related:Waymo Self-Driving Taxi Expansion in California Hits Roadblock

Indeed, CPUC admitted that it had received a number of protests about the plans, from bodies that included the city of San Francisco, the county of San Mateo, the Los Angeles Department of Transport (LADOT), the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance.

Among the criticisms was an accusation from San Mateo County that Waymo had not engaged properly with its staff, while LADOT said that any expansion should be delayed until a Senate bill that aims to give more local control over AV deployment is settled.

LA County supervisor Janice Hahn made her feelings clear, posting on X: “This is a dangerous decision. These robotaxis are far too untested and Angelenos shouldn’t be Big Tech’s guinea pigs. Decisions like this one should be informed by cities, not made over city objections.”

CPUC pointed out that a total of 81 bodies or individuals had responded to support Waymo’s expansion plans, including the American Council for the Blind, the California Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Business Council.

Having taken all the submissions into account, CPUC concluded that Waymo has demonstrated its “attention to continuous evaluation and improvement of its technology, safety practices, and aspects of its operations involving humans… that minimize risk of driverless passenger service operations in a larger and more diverse ODD [operational design domain].” As such, the agency has permitted Waymo to expand immediately.

Related:Two Waymo Self-Driving Taxi Crashes Lead to Software Recall

The specific areas covered include a host of Peninsula cities, including Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Mateo, and in LA, everything north and west of Compton, but not the San Fernando Valley.

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About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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