Mar 5, 2024 - News

Waymo receives approval to operate on San Francisco freeways

white waymo vehicle on the street

A Waymo car drives through San Francisco last year. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images

Waymo has received approval to expand its paid robotaxi services to San Francisco freeways and some other highways in the San Francisco Bay Area. Currently, Waymo has only tested autonomous robotaxis on freeways in San Francisco with a safety driver.

Why it matters: Last week's approval from the California Public Utilities Commission means Waymo can now operate its paid services on the freeway, within San Francisco and outside city limits through Sunnyvale, as well as through parts of Los Angeles County.

  • Waymo has not determined a timeline for when it will expand, but company spokesperson Julia Ilina said in an email to Axios that it will keep the public and officials informed "as we safely and gradually scale our freeway operations."

What they're saying: "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," Ilina said.

The intrigue: Late last month, the CPUC suspended Waymo's application to expand its services in LA and the Peninsula for 120 days "for further staff review." This prompted San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa to say he felt "confused and a bit suspicious" that the reversal came so quickly, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • The CPUC, however, later called that suspension "a ceiling" rather than "a floor," and clarified the commission simply needed more time to make its decision, according to the Chronicle.

Threat level: The rollout of autonomous vehicles in San Francisco has been controversial.

What to watch: Local and state legislators are pushing for the passage of SB 915, which would require autonomous vehicle companies to receive authorization from cities and counties before operating in those areas.

map of san francisco bay area with san francisco and parts of south bay highlighted
Waymo's approved service area in the San Francisco Bay Area. Photo: Courtesy of California Public Utilities Commission
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