Los Angeles Pushes For Robotaxi Rulemaking Powers


Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass is advocating for the city to have the authority to regulate the expansion of robotaxi companies within its jurisdiction. In an open letter addressed to the Public Utilities Commission, which currently oversees commercial robotaxi operations in California, Mayor Bass argues that Los Angeles is well-equipped to effectively regulate autonomous vehicle (AV) services and should have the power to determine the requirements for future deployment.

Key Takeaway

Mayor Karen Bass believes that Los Angeles should have the authority to regulate the expansion of robotaxi companies within its jurisdiction, highlighting the limited control local lawmakers currently have over technology that will impact their own citizens.

The mayor’s stance diverges from some LA councilmembers who raised safety and job-loss concerns, prompting them to discourage robotaxi companies from operating in the city. Instead, Bass aims to strike a balance by maximizing the benefits of emerging technology while mitigating any potential harm to the diverse communities in Los Angeles.

By leveraging her role as mayor of the second-largest US city, Bass sheds light on the inadequate influence local jurisdictions possess when it comes to technological advancements affecting their communities. This push for greater control could potentially hinder the commercial aspirations of AV companies like Waymo, which are beginning to scale their operations.

In the open letter, Bass suggests that Los Angeles has had minimal input in AV deployment and is already experiencing significant disruptions. While her examples were few, one notable incident involved a robotaxi failing to identify and follow instructions from a traffic officer. This particular case did not involve Cruise, as the company had already suspended its operations in the city at the time.

Given the larger population and size of Los Angeles, Mayor Bass argues that the city faces an exponentially greater risk from unrestricted AV deployment. However, some LA city councilmembers are unsure about how to effectively regulate AVs. Transportation Committee officials have called for increased transparency around AV data to inform future actions. The committee has also advocated for a report outlining the city’s existing authority to regulate AV use.

Waymo, one of the leading players in the autonomous vehicle space, expressed disappointment with Mayor Bass’s opposition to AV deployment in Los Angeles. The company believes the letter does not accurately reflect their experience and plans to continue expanding its operations in the city. It’s worth noting that the mayor’s letter does not specify the extent to which she wants robotaxis reined in.

Although Mayor Bass did not directly address labor concerns associated with driverless technology, these concerns have been at the forefront of recent anti-robotaxi rallies. The Teamsters union has been in talks with lawmakers to discuss regulations regarding the expansion of robotaxi services.

Correction: Waymo began its expansion in Los Angeles County on October 12, not November 1 as previously stated.

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