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Los Angeles Councilman Calls for Regulations on ‘Robotaxis’

Los Angeles Councilman Calls for Regulations on ‘Robotaxis’

A Cruise autonomous car waits at an intersection in downtown San Francisco, Calif., on Sept. 12, 2023. (Jason Blair/The Epoch Times)

City News Service

City News Service

10/26/2023

Updated: 10/26/2023

LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles City Councilman Hugo Soto-Martinez introduced a motion Oct. 25 calling on the city attorney to join an existing lawsuit against a state commission “urging officials in the state to address public safety concerns around autonomous vehicles (AVs) and rein in the expansion of robotaxis in Los Angeles.”
The councilman specifically cited both Waymo and Cruise, companies developing and launching AVs, in his motion.
During a morning news conference at City Hall, Mr. Soto-Martinez said the city of Los Angeles should “not be a test for the tech industry.” He urged state officials to enhance regulations for robotaxis because he said safety incidents, including crashes and congestion, are “becoming the norm.”
“Some of the stories that I’ve heard are absolutely egregious and should not be happening here in the city. These vehicles have stopped at intersections at peak hours, whether due to crashes or shutting down to the lack of connectivity,” he added.
The councilman also shared his concerns over how the AVs could be taken over in a potential cyberattack.
A Waymo spokesperson said the company “prioritizes working transparently with policymakers. Well before our arrival and throughout our current Los Angeles operations, Waymo has worked closely with City Hall, first responders and transportation agencies. Our goal is to introduce a ride-hailing service that improves road safety and supports the region’s transportation, equity and sustainability goals. Based on many productive conversations we’ve had with city leaders, we’re confident we can work together to do that.”
Cruise did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the motion.
Chris Griswold of the Teamsters union, which represents drivers and other workers, joined Mr. Soto-Martinez at Wednesday morning’s news conference.
Mr. Soto-Martinez emphasized that if the AVs were to become safer, he would still not support that technology because it could eliminate good-paying jobs.
Mr. Soto-Martinez is calling on Los Angeles to join an ongoing city of San Francisco lawsuit against the California Public Utilities Commission to redo an August hearing that expanded robotaxi permits for Cruise and Waymo. The CPUC is one of the regulatory bodies overseeing the rollout of AVs in California.
According to the motion filed during Wednesday’s L.A. City Council meeting, the city “must join San Francisco’s call to state regulators to reign in autonomous operations in urban contexts and identify benchmarking standards to inform how to expand operations in a thoughtful and careful manner.”
The motion was co-authored by council members Nithya Raman, Imelda Padilla, and Heather Hutt. It will now be forward to the Transportation Committee, and the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee in November for consideration.
A Waymo rider-only robotaxi is seen during a test ride in San Francisco on Dec. 9, 2022. (Paresh Dave/Reuters)

A Waymo rider-only robotaxi is seen during a test ride in San Francisco on Dec. 9, 2022. (Paresh Dave/Reuters)

California Suspends Cruise Permit

On Tuesday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced it was rescinding Cruise’s robotaxi permits. The DMV stated in its suspension order that Cruise withheld video footage of its robotaxi hitting a pedestrian in San Francisco on Oct. 2, impeding the agency’s ongoing investigation of the incident.
Cruise contends it shared the full video of the accident with the DMV and other state and federal agencies, a spokesperson said, and is analyzing improvements to its autonomous vehicle responses.
The DMV notified Cruise of the suspension Tuesday and gave the company remedies required to have its permits reinstated, according to a DMV statement.
After learning of the suspension, the self-driving car company paused operations of driverless vehicles in San Francisco, where the company is based, said the spokesperson. Cruise also operates in Arizona and Texas. Those services were unaffected by California’s decision.
The incident under review by the DMV involved a woman who was struck by a driver and thrown into the path of one of Cruise’s driverless cars.
According to police, she was in a crosswalk and was struck by a human-driven car and thrown in front of the Cruise, which ran over her and then stopped while still on top of her. She was pinned on the ground by the robotaxi with its rear axle and tire over one of her legs.
The driver of the other car fled the scene, according to reports.
“The [autonomous car] braked aggressively before impact and because it detected a collision, it attempted to pull over to avoid further safety issues,” the spokesperson said. “When the [autonomous vehicle] tried to pull over, it continued before coming to a final stop, pulling the pedestrian forward.”
According to accident reports, after the woman became trapped under the robotaxi, she had to be freed by first responders.
“Our thoughts continue to be with the victim as we hope for a rapid and complete recovery,” Cruise said in the statement.
Google’s Waymo, the company’s main rival, will continue to operate and test its autonomous cars in San Francisco. The company this month, through November, is also staging “pop-op” launches of its autonomous vehicles in various neighborhoods in Los Angeles after kicking off a campaign Oct. 11 in Santa Monica.
Jill McLaughlin contributed to this report.
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