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Waymo is cleared to launch robotaxi service in Los Angeles, sparking new protests

Nathan Solis, Rachel Uranga and Karen Garcia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

California regulators have given the green light for Waymo to expand into Los Angeles County, clearing the way for the driverless taxi service to launch into a new massive market in the coming months.

But the move is sparking protests from local leaders, who have safety concerns after a rocky rollout in San Francisco.

Exactly when Waymo services will be available in Los Angeles is still to be determined, but the decision by the California Public Utilities Commission will open the streets of America’s second-largest city to a fleet of autonomous vehicles — even as self-driving cars continue to be the subject of safety concerns and some public criticism.

Waymo, formerly known as the Google self-driving car project, is owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and already operates in parts of San Francisco.

The company is allowed to operate fully autonomous vehicles and carry public passengers as part of its testing and promotion, and has been testing its driverless white Jaguars in Los Angeles for more than a year. An invitation-only period rolled out in Los Angeles County last year, giving some a chance to experience the service firsthand.

“As always, we’ll take a careful and incremental approach to expansion by continuing to work closely with city officials, local communities and our partners to ensure we’re offering a service that’s safe, accessible and valuable to our riders,” Waymo spokesperson Julia Ilina said in a statement.

 

Waymo’s expansion has been met with some skepticism — and the vehicles have at times been targets of vandalism. Last month, a crowd burned an empty Waymo car in San Francisco’s Chinatown, though the motive for that attack was unclear.

Los Angeles officials have expressed concern over the deployment of the driverless vehicles, and some have backed legislation introduced by state Sen. Dave Cortese, D-San Jose, that would give local officials more power to regulate them.

L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn called the CPUC’s approval “a dangerous decision.”

“These robotaxis are far too untested and Angelenos shouldn’t be Big Tech’s guinea pigs. Decisions like this one should be informed by cities, not made over city objections,” Hahn said in a statement.

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