San Francisco Officials Want to Put the Brakes on Self-Driving Taxis

Local officials say autonomous cars are not yet safe enough to be permanently deployed across the entire city.

2 minute read

June 15, 2023, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


White Waymo self-driving car with roof-mounted camera driving on San Francisco street with Exploratorium parking lot sign in background

A Waymo car drives past the Exploratorium in San Francisco, California. | Olga / Waymo self-driving car in San Francisco, California

As autonomous taxi companies push for deployment of their self-driving fleets in U.S. cities, city officials and transportation agencies in San Francisco are asking the state to delay the expansion of these services, citing safety and congestion concerns. As Jared Brey explains in Governing, “The stakes are high for all of San Francisco’s street users, and especially for public transit, says Jeffrey Tumlin, director of transportation for the SFMTA.”

“In May, the California Public Utilities Commission issued draft resolutions that would allow Waymo and Cruise, both companies offering self-driving taxi services, to ‘offer passenger service in [their] autonomous vehicles without a safety driver present throughout the city of San Francisco, at all hours of day or night.’” Since then, the vehicles have blocked traffic, stopped dangerously in the middle of the street, driven in transit-only lanes, interfered with emergency response situations, and, in one case, killed a dog.

Public transit officials worry autonomous cars will further disrupt traffic and transit service as transit struggles to recover its ridership and are calling for more data on their safety before they are deployed full-time. The ride-hailing and shared mobility companies that came before autonomous car operators often had combative relationships with cities and regulatory agencies.According to research engineer Tejas Santanam, “Autonomous-vehicle services should take a different tack … working with public agencies to address their needs instead of treating them as obstacles.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2023 in Governing

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