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California puts Waymo robotaxi expansion application on hold until June 19

Published 02/21/2024, 12:49 PM
Updated 02/21/2024, 03:55 PM
© Reuters. A Waymo rider-only robotaxi is seen during a test ride in San Francisco, California, U.S., December 9, 2022. REUTERS/Paresh Dave/File Photo

By Abhirup Roy

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -A California regulator has put on hold until June 19 an application by Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL)'s Waymo to expand its robotaxi services to parts of the Los Angeles area and San Francisco's peninsula, amid rising safety concerns over autonomous vehicles.

The application has been "suspended for further staff review", a notification on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) website showed on Wednesday. It was unclear when the notification was posted.

"The 'suspension' of an advice letter is a procedural part of the CPUC's standard and robust review process," Waymo said in a emailed response to Reuters.

An application that is not approved within the first 30 days of initial review goes into suspension for up to 120 days, according to CPUC regulations. That suspension can be extended for another 180 days if it is not approved. It can also be rejected or withdrawn.

Waymo, which now operates in San Francisco and Phoenix, applied on Jan 19 to expand its driverless services, saying it would work with policymakers, first responders and community organizations.

The suspension comes amid growing public hostility towards robotaxis following accidents involving Waymo and rival General Motors (NYSE:GM)' Cruise.

A Waymo robotaxi was attacked and set on fire this month as it stopped amid Chinese New Year revelers lighting fireworks in San Francisco's Chinatown. That followed an incident in which another Waymo car struck a bicyclist at a city intersection.

In October, a self-driving vehicle made by GM-owned Cruise hit and dragged a pedestrian 20 feet (6 meters). California subsequently suspended Cruise's driverless testing license.

© Reuters. A Waymo rider-only robotaxi is seen during a test ride in San Francisco, California, U.S., December 9, 2022. REUTERS/Paresh Dave/File Photo

The incidents have pushed California lawmakers to call for stricter regulation of robotaxis and autonomous trucks in the state.

Last week, Waymo said it had recalled vehicles after two minor collisions in quick succession in Phoenix because a software error could result in their inaccurately predicting the movement of a towed vehicle.

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