CPUC Should Reject Waymo & Cruise Expansion Warns Consumer Watchdog

Ahead of the August 10 vote by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) over robotaxi service in San Francisco, Consumer Watchdog urges the regulator to vote against unlimited expansion for Waymo and Cruise vehicles and require better reporting data.

“The technology is simply not there, and the public isn’t getting the full picture. There is a clear disconnect between what Waymo and Cruise are saying about the safety of their vehicles and what the public and first responders are dealing with on a day-to-day basis,” said Justin Kloczko, tech and privacy advocate for Consumer Watchdog.

Cars 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 240 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.

The resolutions before the CPUC do not mention these reported incidents. While the regulator is looking into the issue of data reporting, it cannot leapfrog this safety concern and go ahead with the vote, according to Consumer Watchdog. The data reporting requirements at a minimum must be on the books first, and once the CPUC sees the full picture it should understand that robotaxis put not only passengers but the general public in danger, said the advocacy group..

“These robotaxis would definitely fail a driver’s license test,” said Kloczko. “The CPUC can’t pass the buck to the Department of Motor Vehicles. It has the appropriate regulatory authority and it should use it.”

The CPUC shouldn’t just take Waymo’s word for it, said the advocacy group. 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.

Further, current CPUC voting member John Reynolds is a former Cruise lawyer, who worked for the robotaxi company before joining the CPUC in 2021. Consumer Watchdog calls on Reynolds to recuse himself from the Cruise expansion vote. He did so last year in a vote involving Cruise.

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.

“There is tremendous financial pressure to get swift regulatory approval,” said Kloczko.

Currently, Waymo only has the authority to offer fared passenger service in San Francisco with a safety driver present. If the vote passes, it will give the companies unlimited expansion.

Los Angeles is next. An unlimited approval would be irresponsible. The CPUC needs to pump the brakes on expansion,” said Kloczko.