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Robotaxi expansion: San Francisco city attorney asks for pause

San Franciscans wait to speak in a long line at the robotaxi hearing on Aug. 10. | Source: Ida Mojadad/The Standard

San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu has asked the California Public Utilities Commission to pause the controversial unlimited expansion of robotaxis in the city.

Chiu filed an administrative motion Wednesday with the commission to temporarily halt the expansion, according to a statement shared with The Standard. The move follows resolutions approved by a panel vote just a week ago that dropped the limits on service hours, fleet size and geographic area.

The city also plans to file a re-hearing application with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) within weeks and believes the panel failed to fully consider the impact of up to several thousand robotaxis on city streets under the state's environmental quality act or to tie approval to metrics addressing public safety hazards.

READ MORE: What Do You Want To Know About Robotaxi Expansion in San Francisco?

“When deploying powerful, new technology, safety should be the top priority. We have seen that this technology is not yet safe, and poor AV performance has interfered with the life-saving operations of first responders,” Chiu said in a statement.

“San Francisco will suffer serious harms from this unfettered expansion, which outweigh whatever impacts AV companies may experience from a minimal pause in commercial deployment. The City is simply requesting the CPUC preserve the status quo while it seeks rehearing.”

“San Francisco seeks an immediate stay of the CPUC’s approval of unrestricted driverless AV passenger services in our city," San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said.

Peskin, who chairs the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board, added that “[t]he risks and impacts of this decision should not continue to be borne by our residents and visitors while we seek redress from the Commission’s misguided action.”

San Francisco Fire Department Chief Jeanine Nicholson also weighed in Thursday, saying the decision “permits industry expansion without solving any of the underlying problems.

“We do not believe the industry has any incentive to remain at the table and solve their problems,” Nicholson added. “These incidents with public safety are not going away and are in fact increasing.”

“We fully support the CPUC’s carefully considered decision to authorize Waymo to charge fares for driverless rides,” a Waymo spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement late Wednesday morning. “We will follow this development closely, and in the meantime, continue providing safe and accessible mobility to San Franciscans.”

Cruise did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.