Categories: Tech

Rollout of Waymo’s self-driving taxis in LA is paused amid ‘very real public safety concerns’ after two crashes within minutes of each other – and one fire

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Los Angeles will not yet have autonomous taxis.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has paused self-driving vehicle company Waymo’s plans to expand its self-driving taxi service in the state.

The announcement comes a week after Waymo admitted that not one, but two of its self-driving taxis crashed into the same truck in Arizona in December.

Waymo, owned by Google parent company Alphabet, has fully autonomous taxis operating in San Francisco since 2022, along with rival Cruise.

The company had requested permission to deploy its fleet of driverless taxis beyond San Francisco, into the Bay Area, as well as Los Angeles.

But as of Wednesday, the CPUC suspended that plan for at least 120 days.

On Tuesday, Johan Forssell, Swedish Minister of International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, took a ride in a fully autonomous Waymo taxi in San Francisco. The next day, California regulators rejected the company’s expansion plan.

A series of cameras on the outside of Waymo’s self-driving taxis are supposed to prevent accidents. But at least two have been involved in accidents recently.

“As Waymo has stalled any meaningful discussion about its expansion plans in Silicon Valley, the CPUC has put the brakes on its request to test robotaxi service with virtually no restrictions in San Mateo and Los Angeles counties,” said the board’s vice president. of San Mateo County Supervisors, David. J. Canepa told television station KTVU in a statement.

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

According to the company, no one was in the cars at the time of the Arizona crash in December.

The car’s camera sensors had allegedly miscalculated the truck’s location, twice.

Waymo issued a recall last week when it announced the findings in a blog post.

The company blamed the tow truck for having its towed truck improperly secured.

Another Waymo car, this one with a driver at the wheel but in autonomous mode, killed a dog in June of last year.

In the first quarter of 2023, there were 87 traffic incidents involving Waymo and Cruise, owned by General Motors.

And earlier this month, during Lunar New Year celebrations, San Franciscans set a Waymo taxi on fire with fireworks.

The driverless car had become “mistaken” by the revelers’ fireworks and stopped in the middle of the road, where it refused to move.

Locals set fire to this Waymo-owned Jaguar on February 10 during Lunar New Year celebrations in San Francisco.

The car stopped dead, blocking the road, after being “confused” by the fireworks. They broke windows and set off fireworks.

An angry crowd set the car on fire.

No one was inside when a rowdy crowd smashed the windshield before one person threw fireworks inside.

The incident, which was partly an act of senseless vandalism, also highlighted the city’s simmering hostility toward autonomous vehicles, which many locals say have been deployed before they were safe.

Leaders from San Mateo and San Francisco, including Canepa, wrote letters of protest to the CPUC last week after learning that Waymo planned to expand its coverage.

However, a similar suspension occurred before Waymo was finally allowed to launch in San Francisco, so this may not be the end of the saga.

On February 7, a Waymo driverless taxi hit a cyclist in San Francisco.

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