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Permission granted for Waymo's expansion to Los Angeles and San Francisco peninsula

A few weeks after it suspended Waymo's requests to expand in San Mateo and Los Angeles counties, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) gave the green light for the expansion of Waymo's service area. The approval opens up to the San Francisco Peninsula (including much of Silicon Valley), and a large portion of the Los Angeles area.

David Canepa, vice president for the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, expressed confusion and suspicion regarding the CPUC's swift reversal of the suspension (earlier reports suggested a delay until June), emphasising the need for local control over robotaxi operations. This sentiment echoes the broader debate surrounding SB 915 by state Sen. Dave Cortese, aimed at granting municipalities more authority in regulating autonomous vehicles.

Waymo's service area in LA
Waymo's service area in LA - credits: Waymo

In California, regulatory authority over driving lies with the state DMV, while taxi services fall under CPUC jurisdiction, sidelining municipal control over roadways. This dynamic has led to tensions in some areas, although regions like Phoenix and Austin have fostered more collaborative environments. Nevertheless, the challenge of navigating multiple regulatory landscapes remains a central concern for robotaxi companies.

The expansion into the San Francisco Peninsula and LA offers promising terrain for Waymo, given

its familiarity with the area. Yet, challenges persist, particularly in areas heavily reliant on personal vehicles and freeway-dependent travel. Additionally, access to key transportation hubs like SFO airport remains restricted, reflecting ongoing resistance from San Francisco municipality.

As Waymo navigates these complexities, its expansion signals a pivotal moment in the evolution of urban mobility. While hurdles remain, the strides made in California underscore the transformative potential of autonomous transportation and the intricate interplay between innovation and regulation.

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This project is supported by EIT Urban Mobility, an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union. EIT Urban Mobility acts to accelerate positive change on mobility to make urban spaces more liveable.

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