The SF Bicycle Coalition’s stance on robotaxi expansion

On August 10th, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved autonomous vehicle (AV) expansion permits for Cruise and Waymo to operate paid robotaxi services 24/7 in San Francisco. Currently, both companies are only allowed to operate AV’s in San Francisco. This vote means our city streets are going to be the testing grounds for AV expansion.

We joined our local partners, including the SF County Transportation Authority, SF Municipal Transportation Agency, SF Transit Riders, SF Taxi Worker Alliance, Senior and Disability Action, SEIU 1021, and SafeStreetRebel to give public comment in opposition of the AV permit expansion. We are gravely disappointed in the CPUC’s decision to approve the permits despite so much opposition from trusted advocates and organizations.

We do not believe Cruise and Waymo are ready for expansion, as they haven’t demonstrated they’re operating safely under their current permits. Everyday San Franciscans have documented dozens of incidents in which AV’s interfere with emergency response, obstruct transit operations, or create unsafe conditions for people walking. The collision data presented by these companies is extremely limited, and does not fully encompass the array of issues reported by the larger San Francisco community—such as if an AV abruptly stops and forces cars behind it to veer into bike lanes.

Alongside these major safety concerns, AV permit expansion also means there will be more vehicles on the roads. Regardless of whether they’re electric or autonomous, more cars on our congested streets goes against our mission and the City’s goals of getting people to shift to active forms of transportation, such as bikes and public transit. We also have deep equity concerns about the impacts of autonomizing taxi service for folks without access to technology, and how AV companies will pay their share to our public transportation system while using our public roadways. 

We do believe technology has a role to play in reaching our city’s Vision Zero and sustainability goals, but we are unconvinced AV companies can help us reach those goals at this time.

This is just the beginning of the AV conversation in San Francisco. Even though permits have been approved, there will be future opportunities to speak on this issue. CPUC commissioner Darcie Houck tasked Cruise and Waymo to address issues raised by San Franciscans and said, “If there are further reports of incidents — AVs blocking roads, causing traffic jams, and impeding emergency vehicles — the CPUC could vote to limit the number of vehicles allowed on the road or revoke the companies’ permits altogether.”

In the meantime, you can report poor or dangerous AV behavior here to help the Department of Motor Vehicles with data collection. To stay updated on this campaign and be engaged on actions in the future, sign up for our campaign updates below.

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