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Waymo to reduce robotaxi service in San Francisco during APEC

A white Waymo driverless SUV zips along a city street
Waymo will reduce robotaxi service in San Francisco during APEC week due to restricted access to city streets, according to a company spokesperson. | Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It is not just San Franciscans who will have to adjust their routes around the city as APEC kicks off. Robotaxis are also feeling the impact from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that starts Saturday.

Waymo's autonomous vehicle service will be adjusted to reflect the restricted access around San Francisco, according to a Waymo spokesperson.

"We are in coordination with local and national agencies and will be adjusting our service to comply with security zones and temporary road closures," said Christopher Bonelli, a Waymo spokesperson. "This will restrict access to Downtown San Francisco during the conference and may affect wait times and routing throughout the rest of the city."

Road closures and restrictions will be in place in South of Market and Nob Hill, as well as along the Embarcadero and near the Legion of Honor as world leaders and VIPs move about the city. The U.S. Secret Service is in charge of security during the weeklong event, which is drawing world leaders, including President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

READ MORE: APEC San Francisco: See Security, Traffic, Transit Maps

A reporter with The Standard observed a Waymo vehicle attempt to enter a restricted zone Thursday afternoon near Moscone Center, where APEC meetings will be held.

A Waymo autonomous vehicle is seen stopped at a corner near Moscone Center, where the APEC summit will take place. | Source: Joshua Bote/The Standard

The vehicle eventually reversed itself and adjusted its route.

The limitation to service may disappoint APEC attendees hoping to experience a robotaxi ride in San Francisco, one of the few cities in the U.S. where driverless cars can accept paying customers for rides.

Waymo had been competing in San Francisco with rival autonomous vehicle company Cruise until the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise vehicles from operating on city streets amid safety concerns.

Data reported by the San Francisco Chronicle showed Waymo completed nearly 20,000 paid driverless trips in the city in August, along with almost 8,400 unpaid rides. Cruise completed 17,000 paid driverless trips and 49,000 unpaid trips.

Joel Umanzor can be reached at jumanzor@sfstandard.com