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Regulators agree to expand driverless car services in San Francisco

California regulators agreed Thursday to the expansion of driverless taxi services in San Francisco, despite security concerns local authorities and community workers.

In a 3-to-1 vote, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates self-driving cars in the state, allowed Cruise and Waymo to offer paid rides at any time during the day throughout the city. One commissioner was absent.

Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, was offering paid rides in one-third of the city, while Waymo, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, was offering free rides to passengers in its driverless cars . The vote had no effect on the ongoing test drives that Waymo and Cruise are conducting without passengers on the streets of San Francisco.

The commission’s decision after a seven-hour hearing came after months of protests from city officials and citizen groups, who complained that driverless cars were a potential road hazard. Although the autonomous vehicles have not been blamed for any serious incidents, city officials say they often stop and do not proceed after encountering an unexpected obstacle such as a fire hose or downed power lines Are.

The expansion plan was the first sign that driverless cars might be commercially viable after billion dollar investment Tech and auto industries. “San Francisco will be a proof of concept for the rest of the country,” said Matt Wansley, a law professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York.

Cruise San Francisco operates 300 vehicles during the night and 100 during the day, while Waymo operates 250 vehicles throughout the day. None of the companies expected a significant increase in the number of vehicles.

Waymo said its driverless fleet would “align” with rider demands, while Cruise said it would focus on expanding the market to new parts of the city, as it only offered paid rides in northwest San Francisco. It was

Both supporters and opponents of driverless cars – including trade unions, gig workers, disability groups and transportation activists – gathered at the commission’s headquarters in San Francisco on Thursday. In a campaign organized by Waymo, about 100 workers and riders came to the meeting wearing yellow shirts that read “Safer Streets for All.”

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