Autonomous & Self-Driving Vehicle News: CPUC, Waymo, Cruise & TIER IV

In autonomous and self-driving vehicle news are CPUC, Waymo, Cruise and TIER IV.

CPUC Decision Cruise & Waymo Cruise

Following two delayed votes, over six hours of public comment and heavy opposition, the California Public Utilities Commission voted late Thursday August 10, to authorize driverless car expansion in the city of San Francisco despite numerous reported safety issues not part of the official record, said Consumer Watchdog.

The resolutions pertaining to GM Cruise and Waymo passed by a vote of 3 to 1, with Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma the lone dissenting vote.

“It’s unfortunate the commissioners looked at this issue very narrowly and departed from their own stated mission and values of ensuring public safety,” said Justin Kloczko, a tech and privacy advocate for Consumer Watchdog. “They are failing to regulate a dangerous, nascent industry. Los Angeles is next.”

The advocacy group also presented comments during the meeting.

Waymo and Cruise vehicles have been abruptly stopping, blocking traffic, flashing wrong turn signals, and impeding emergency responders from doing their jobs.

“The city of San Francisco said there have been over 250 such reported incidents since the beginning of the year. But you wouldn’t know it if you asked regulators or the robotaxi companies themselves. They don’t have to report such incidents,” said Kloczko.

Over the past year, Waymo & Cruise could operate driverless cars throughout the city of San Francisco at all hours, but they couldn’t charge fares all the time. Waymo couldn’t charge for driverless rides. Cruise could only charge fares in certain parts of the city during overnight hours. With today’s vote, the companies can charge for all rides, expand when and where they operate, and add an unlimited number of robotaxis to their fleets. Waymo, for example, can drive up to 65 mph.

Commissioner Shiroma, who asked for a suspension of the vote, said the commission doesn’t have a complete record to move forward with the vote.

“I believe it is premature to vote for these resolutions today,” she said, adding Cruise and Waymo must explain why they are making unexpected stops and how they can ensure this doesn’t happen in the future.

“The fact that an injury or fatality hasn’t happened yet isn’t the end of the inquiry,” said Shiroma.

Commissioner John Reynolds, a former Cruise lawyer, argued in favor of expansion. During his remarks, he argued safety was an issue to be regulated not by the CPUC, but by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Commissioner Reynolds should have recused himself from the Cruise vote. Instead he did the bidding of his former corporate employer,” said Kloczko.

Commissioner Darcie Houck, who also voted in favor of the resolutions, said the DMV still has the power to revoke a permit if something bad were to happen with the driverless vehicles.

Chairwoman Alice Reynolds said, “the resolutions before us do support our requirements.”

Commissioner Karen Douglas was absent from the vote.

Cruise has yet to turn a profit in its 10-year existence. It lost $611 million during the second quarter this year, according to a recent earnings report. The total loss so far for 2023 is over $1 billion. Despite this Cruise expects to make $1 billion in revenue by 2025

In addition to being dangerous, driverless cars will take away jobs, said the nonprofit advocacy group.

“The CPUC is helping accelerate a massive transfer of wealth away from working people to tech monopolies,” said Kloczko.

City departments estimated Waymo vehicles were involved in collisions with injuries reported at a rate 1.3 times higher than the national average of human-driven vehicles. This analysis is based on data that Waymo submitted to federal regulators, the CPUC and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Waymo’s Response

“Waymo received its driverless deployment permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the final step in a robust process with regulators before we could offer a paid fully autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco. In the coming weeks, we’ll begin charging fares for rider-only trips in the city and gradually welcoming more riders into the service.

“Today’s permit marks the true beginning of our commercial operations in San Francisco,” said Tekedra Mawakana, co-CEO of Waymo. “We’re incredibly grateful for this vote of confidence from the CPUC, and to the communities and riders who have supported our service. We can’t wait for more San Franciscans to experience the mobility, safety, sustainability and accessibility benefits of full autonomy for themselves — all at the touch of a button.”

With over 100,000 signups (and counting) on our waitlist, we expect demand will be incredibly high. So to ensure riders receive a reliable service and our expansion is gradual, we’ll be welcoming new riders to Waymo One incrementally.

TIER IV & Axell

TIER IV, a pioneer in open-source autonomous driving (AD) technology, has successfully partnered with  Axell Corporation, a Japan-based computer hardware company, to conduct a collaborative research project aimed at creating a new application-specific system-on-chip (SoC) and software platform for autonomous vehicles. The project culminated in a demonstration, showcasing the power and performance advantages of the Autoware Accelerators. These hardware accelerators are custom-designed specifically for the Autoware architecture.

These collaborative research efforts were funded by the “Innovative AI Chip and Next-Generation Computing Technology Development” project, sponsored by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

The new SoC has been specifically optimized to integrate with Autoware, a widely acclaimed open-source software for autonomous driving championed by TIER IV. Designed to execute a diverse range of AD algorithms with exceptional efficiency, the SoC sets the stage for the development of a complete Robo-Taxi system with an estimated power consumption of less than 150W (utilizing the latest state-of-the-art semiconductor process). Additionally, the system features hardware accelerators that expertly manage high-load sensor data processing, achieving close to a tenfold reduction in power consumption compared to existing environments. To ensure seamless execution of control system processing, a dedicated real-time operating system (RTOS) is seamlessly integrated with many-core processors, effectively mitigating fluctuations in execution time. With its focus on AI edge computing, the SoC aims to provide more efficient and reliable AD functions.

1.This article is based on results obtained from a project, JPNP16007, commissioned by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

2. All company names, product names, service names, trade names, and registered trademarks mentioned here are the property of their respective owners.