San Francisco asks state regulators to pause robotaxi rollout, reassess approval

Less than a week after California regulators opened the floodgates to driverless robotaxis in San Francisco, the city has asked for that rollout to be suspended.

In a motion Wednesday, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu asked the California Public Utilities Commission — which oversees taxis and autonomous vehicles — to pause the expansion while the city seeks a rehearing, citing safety concerns.

“When deploying powerful, new technology, safety should be the top priority,” Chiu said in a statement. “We have seen that this technology is not yet ready.”

Chiu said the city “will suffer serious harms from this unfettered expansion, which outweigh whatever impacts [autonomous-vehicle] companies may experience from a minimal pause in commercial deployment. The city is simply requesting the CPUC preserve the status quo while it seeks rehearing.”

Autonomous cars from Waymo, a unit of Alphabet

and GM

subsidiary Cruise have become a ubiquitous sight on San Francisco streets, but their free robotaxi services had been restricted to certain times and neighborhoods.

Last Thursday, the CPUC approved the unlimited expansion of Waymo and Cruise for-pay robotaxis across the entire city, 24/7, despite concerns from San Francisco officials, many of whom pointed out a rising number of incidents involving the driverless cars blocking traffic and emergency vehicles.

Read more: On the streets of San Francisco, will robotaxis run amok or aground?

Matters weren’t helped by a series of high-profile incidents in the past week, as a cluster of Cruise cars froze and blocked traffic in the busy North Beach neighborhood Friday night, and two other Cruises drove through construction sites this week — one into wet concrete.

Last week’s decision “permits industry expansion without solving any of the underlying problems,” San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson said in a statement. “These incidents with public safety are not going away and are in fact increasing.”

Meanwhile, Waymo is reportedly set to start charging for robotaxi rides in San Francisco on Monday.

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