On Thursday, California regulators voted to allow two rival companies, Waymo and Cruise, to operate 24/7 robotaxi services in San Francisco. By Friday night, a group of Cruise vehicles reportedly made a brief stop near the city’s North Beach, flashing hazard lights and causing a traffic jam.

The California Public Utilities Commission voted 3-1 to approve the service expansion, making San Francisco the first major U.S. city to allow two robo-taxi companies to compete for service “round the clock.” It allows Waymo, owned by Google’s parent company, to letterand Cruise, owner General Motorsexpand your fleet as needed and collect fares at any time of the day.

But around 11 p.m. Friday, pedestrians reported seeing as many as 10 of Cruise’s driverless vehicles parked on and around Vallejo Street in North Beach, trapping human-driven vehicles. at least 15 minutesAccording to reports. The company cited issues with cellphone service related to a nearby music festival, saying it hindered its ability to route its vehicles.

Cruise did not respond to a request for comment.

The weekend congestion came after some groups, including the San Francisco police and fire department, strongly opposed the regulator’s decision.During a hearing last week, officials from the city’s fire department, police department and city transportation department prepared a report at least 600 accidents From June 2022, unmanned vehicles will be affected, including unpredictable operations near emergency response areas, hindering access to emergency situations, contact with people or equipment, or near-miss accidents.

Waymo and Cruise were both limited in their ability to operate in San Francisco ahead of Thursday’s vote. In Cruise’s case, it can offer service for a fee in certain areas between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. if there is no safety driver in the vehicle. If the ride is free, it can offer that service anytime. If the vehicle does have a safety driver, the company can charge 24/7.

In the case of Waymo, pending a decision by regulators, the company cannot charge for ride-hailing without a safety driver at any time. But if a safety driver is on board, then the company can charge passengers for a ride at any time.

Waymo said it has more than 100,000 registered users on a waiting list for its service, and the company’s co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana said in a statement Friday that the service expansion “marks the real start of our commercial operations in San Francisco.”

Waymo declined to share weekend ride-hailing data with CNBC, or to comment on whether Cruise’s traffic congestion is affecting its future operating plans. But the company is seeing “very high demand” for its service, Chris Ludwick, the company’s director of product management, told CNBC in a statement.

Ludwick added, “We have always taken an incremental approach to deploying our technology and will continue to gradually expand our services and fleet in San Francisco, keeping in mind safety and the needs of the local community.”

On a July 25 earnings call, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt discussed plans to “cover a city like San Francisco” with Cruise vehicles, saying that if it did so, the company would need to increase its production, and said it may plan to roll out thousands of robotaxis in the United States. that area.

“There are more than 10,000 ride-hailing drivers in San Francisco, probably much more than that, depending on how you count,” Vogt said by phone. Hours. So, in a city like San Francisco, the numbers that generate significant revenue are not high. But for sure, each driver has the capacity to absorb thousands of people. At least the city.”


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