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California approves Waymo robotaxi services in LA, SF neighboring cities

FILE PHOTO: Waymo rider-only robotaxi test ride in San Francisco

(Reuters) -A California regulator has approved a proposal from Alphabet's Waymo to expand its fared, completely driverless robotaxi services to Los Angeles and some cities near San Francisco, effective on Friday.

Waymo, which already 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. Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) suspended the application "for further staff review."

"Waymo may begin fared driverless passenger service operations in the specified areas of Los Angeles and the San Francisco Peninsula, effective today," the CPUC said on a notice posted to its website on Friday.

However, protests were submitted by the City of South San Francisco, the County of San Mateo, and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation among others.


The City of South San Francisco argues that the public should be able to provide testimony and submit evidence on the implications of Waymo's expansion.

San Mateo argued that the approval of Waymo's proposal would be "unreasonable" without further input from local stakeholders.

It added that "no conversations had taken place between Waymo and County leaders or staff."

The regulator said it had received through the approval process five letters in protest and 81 letters in support of Waymo's expansion plans.

The approval comes amid growing public hostility towards robotaxis following accidents involving Waymo and rival General Motors' Cruise.

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

Waymo also recalled 444 self-driving vehicles last month after two minor collisions in quick succession in Arizona because a software error could result in them inaccurately predicting the movement of a towed vehicle.

(Reporting by Abhirup Roy in San Francisco and Zaheer Kachwala in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Shailesh Kuber)