Waymo, the autonomous driving technology company, has received approval from California regulators to expand its self-driving robotaxis operations in select areas of Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) greenlit Waymo’s expansion plans, allowing its vehicles to navigate local roads and highways at speeds of up to 65mph in authorized zones. Despite this advancement, Waymo asserts that it will proceed with caution, emphasizing a careful and incremental approach to its expansion and clarifying that there are no immediate plans to extend service to highways.

This decision comes after a temporary halt on Waymo’s expansion last month, prompted by concerns raised by various San Francisco city agencies and advocacy groups regarding the safety of driverless vehicles. Recent incidents, including a Waymo car colliding with a bicyclist and a Cruise vehicle striking and dragging a pedestrian, have heightened scrutiny over autonomous vehicle safety.

In its evaluation, the CPUC acknowledged Waymo’s commitment to ongoing evaluation and enhancement of its technology, safety protocols, and operational procedures involving human oversight. The commission concluded that Waymo has demonstrated measures to mitigate risks associated with driverless passenger service operations in expanded areas, thereby granting approval for immediate expansion.

Despite some dissenting voices, with groups like the American Council of the Blind expressing reservations about safety and accessibility standards, the CPUC cited potential benefits in terms of safety, accessibility, economic impact, and environmental sustainability as factors supporting Waymo’s expansion. The commission, however, declined to address broader regulatory issues raised, deeming them beyond the scope of its authority.

As Waymo gears up for its expanded operations, the decision underscores ongoing debates surrounding the regulation and integration of autonomous vehicle technology into urban environments. While proponents emphasize the potential benefits of such advancements, concerns persist regarding safety, accessibility, and regulatory oversight.

In a separate development, Lenovo showcases its vision for a rollable future at MWC 2023, unveiling prototype rollable devices including a laptop and a phone with expandable screens, signaling further innovation in the realm of portable technology.

By Impact Lab