Waymo Self-Driving Taxis Testing in New York State; Teamsters Wage Fight

The Teamsters are lobbying legislators to keep “unsafe robotaxis” off the street

Graham Hope

November 20, 2023

3 Min Read
A Waymo self-driving taxi on a road in San Francisco

New York State is shaping up to be the next battleground for autonomous vehicles (AVs) after Waymo confirmed it would begin testing in Buffalo.

The news has prompted an angry response from the Teamsters union, which has confirmed it will be lobbying legislators to keep “unsafe robotaxis” off the streets.

The Teamsters have been heavily involved in the fight against the introduction of driverless testing of trucks in California, which has also seen fierce debates about the role of self-driving taxis in San Francisco.

Now the focus could be set to shift to the other side of the United States following a Nov. 6 blog post from Waymo. 

This revealed that the company would be taking its AVs “on road trips to regions where the driving culture and conditions differ from the areas we regularly operate.” Waymo accompanied this with a tweet announcing Buffalo was earmarked for “weather testing.”

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“As we scale up our fully autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco, Metro Phoenix, Los Angeles, Austin and beyond, we’re excited to perform this testing in parallel,” Waymo’s post added.

However, this prompted an angry reaction from the Teamsters, who issued a statement in response.

“Teamsters are not against technology if it’s done right, but driverless vehicles are a direct threat to public safety,” said Thomas Gesualdi, president of Teamsters Joint Council 16.

Related:California Governor Vetoes Bill to Ban Driverless Trucks

“From the near daily news of driverless vehicles interfering with first-responders, to an AV running over and dragging a woman more than 20 feet, lawmakers should be discussing how to responsibly regulate these companies, not making New York roads the test grounds and our citizens guinea pigs for Big Tech.”

The crash Gesualdi referred to is the Oct. 2 incident in San Francisco where a pedestrian was struck by a hit-and-run human-driven vehicle, propelling her into the path of a Cruise self-driving taxi, which dragged her along the road before coming to a halt, leaving her trapped and seriously injured. 

The fallout from this crash has sparked a chain of events that has seen the General Motors subsidiary pause all operations nationwide as it tries to rebuild public trust.

The Teamsters also pointed out that a Waymo AV killed a dog in San Francisco earlier this year, and accused the company of heavy spending in its efforts to lobby New York Governor Kathy Hochul and also the city of New York.

Currently, New York does not allow testing of AVs to be carried out without a human behind the steering wheel, and George Harrigan, president of Teamsters Joint Council 46, expressed satisfaction that two AV bills that proposed to change this – S1012 and A539 – had not moved in the state legislature. 

Related:Self-Driving Taxi Service Pause Requested in San Francisco

“We urge lawmakers to stand with New York and not Silicon Valley by killing these bills and any similar legislation that doesn’t include collaboration with workers,” he said.

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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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