California AV hearing
The California Public Utility Commission voted to allow autonomous vehicle companies Cruise and Waymo to operate 24/7 in San Francisco while also charging for a ride. The measure was approved after house of public comment and debate. Opposition used recent examples of AVs blocking roads, causing traffic jams, and impeding emergency vehicles. If there are further reports of incidents, the CPUC could vote to limit the number of vehicles allowed on the road or revoke the companies permits altogether.
This measure makes San Francisco the first city in the world to have two companies offering fully operational paid autonomous driving taxi services. Before this ruling, robotaxis have been able to operate with location restrictions but now anyone with the respected app can use the service. Waymo’s CEO Tekedra Mawakana said, “We can’t wait for more San Franciscans to experience the mobility, safety, sustainability and accessibility benefits of full autonomy for themselves – all at the touch of a button.”
California Senate panel to consider AB316 on autonomous trucking
A panel of California Legislators will consider AB316, a bill aimed to slow down the deployment of autonomous trucks on state roadways. This bill restricts the use of autonomous trucks weighing at least 10,001 pounds without a driver. It also prohibits their operation for testing purposes, transporting goods, or transporting passengers without a human safety operator present in the vehicle. This bill is backed heavily by teamsters arguing that the legislation will protect jobs and keep the roads safer.
Cruise now testing in several new cities
Cruise, the autonomous vehicle arm of General Motors, is now testing and expanding their vehicles in several new cities.
Atlanta is one of the newest testing grounds for the company’s autonomous vehicles. Currently, a driver is required to be at the wheel. A spokeswoman said that in the initial phase a driver would need to be behind the wheel, but the intention is to eventually operate a ride-hailing service with fully autonomous vehicles. These cars will be testing in parts of downtown, Midtown, and the Buckhead area. This news comes on the heels of the Cumberland area of Atlanta launching an autonomous vehicle partnership with Beep as well as the Atlanta airport investing in self-driving vehicles.
The company is expanding into the Phoenix area as it starts competing with Waymo which has been operating in the area since 2020. The area includes Chandler, Tempe, and Scottsdale. For now, the robotaxis are only open to the first group of testers. This group has registered with Cruise and use the service for free. A Cruise spokesperson said there is not yet an estimate for when the vehicles will be available for public use.
Cruise announced it would begin testing its robotaxi technology in Austin, Texas less than a year ago and now they are expanding their services. The company is beginning to on-board residents who joined Cruise’s rideshare waitlist. “Right now, we’re focused on our downtown Austin service and are slowly expanding that area… As with everything we do, we start small to ensure safety as we scale,” a Cruise spokesperson said.
The company’s self-driving vehicles have begun testing on the streets of these cities with a robotaxi service to follow. Much like Atlanta there is currently a driver behind the wheel, but vehicles will lose the human safety operator in the coming months. This goes along with the company’s phased approach with the first couple months allowing data to compile on the cities driving habits before becoming fully autonomous.
Beep shuttle service launches in two more cities
Starting later this month, Beep Inc. will begin operating a self-driving shuttle that will transport travelers around downtown Orlando, Florida. The route is a mile long and will be free to ride. This is part of a six-month trial that will gather data to aid city transportation officials in future planning. On the other side of the country, Beep will start service in San Francisco, California. The free shuttle will operate on a fixed route called the Loop around Treasure Island. The shuttle is currently staffed with an attendant who can drive the shuttle with a controller if necessary. This service is operating in several cities across six states.