State regulators may not reach a decision on whether to permit Waymo's expansion beyond San Francisco until early summer

Graham Hope

February 26, 2024

3 Min Read
Johan Forssell, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade experiences Waymo in San Francisco, California.
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Waymo’s plan to expand its self-driving taxi operations in California has been put on hold by state regulators.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the company, owned by Google parent Alphabet, had applied to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for a license to extend commercial operations to Los Angeles.

This was accompanied by a request to increase its coverage outside San Francisco to incorporate 22 Bay Area cities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

But now CPUC’s Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division has suspended the application for “further staff review” for up to 120 days.  According to the CPUC website, a deadline for a decision to be made has been set for mid-June later this year.

While this does not affect Waymo’s ability to operate its existing services in San Francisco, it does mean that it will have to postpone its mooted program of expansion.

CPUC’s suspension has been described as part of the standard procedural process by Waymo, but there can be no doubt it comes at an increasingly fraught time for self-driving taxis in the state.

Cruise’s disastrous fall from grace has been well documented, with the General Motors subsidiary suspending all operations nationally, ditching its management team and hundreds of staff, amid suggestions of a lack of transparency following an accident in San Francisco in October.

Related:Waymo Wants to Expand Self-Driving Taxi Fleet to LA

With Cruise self-driving taxis now off the road, there has been increased scrutiny on Waymo in recent months, which has caused a number of negative headlines.

Earlier in February, one of Waymo’s modified Jaguar I-Pace SUVs was attacked and set on fire by a mob during San Francisco’s Lunar New Year celebrations. This came a handful of days after a Waymo AV was involved in an accident with a cyclist in the city.

The company also issued its first-ever safety “recall” for a software update after two different self-driving taxis were in collision with a pick-up truck that was being towed in Phoenix, Arizona. 

The increasing unease about the robotaxi rollout, blamed by many for causing congestion and hindering first responders in San Francisco, has been reflected by City Attorney David Chiu’s attempts to slow things down. He has filed a lawsuit against CPUC following its decision last August to allow Waymo to operate 24/7.

And now CPUC’s decision to further review the company’s latest application for expansion has been welcomed by David J Canepa of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

“Since Waymo has stalled any meaningful discussions on its expansion plans into Silicon Valley, the CPUC has put the brakes on its application to test robotaxi service virtually unfettered both in San Mateo and Los Angeles counties,” he said. 

Related:Waymo Self-Driving Taxi Destroyed by Violent Crowd

“This will provide the opportunity to fully engage the autonomous vehicle maker on our very real public safety concerns that have caused all kinds of dangerous situations for firefighters and police in neighboring San Francisco.”

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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