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Google’s Robotaxis Can Now Operate in Los Angeles. Here’s Why Some Angelenos Are Concerned.

The driverless ride-hailing service Waymo received approval from California regulators to launch in Los Angeles County in coming months.

4:48 PM PDT on March 11, 2024

    Los Angeles will become the third city to host Google’s self-driving taxis. The autonomous ride-hailing service Waymo received approval from California regulators to launch in L.A. County in the coming months. However, Waymo’s expansion into other U.S. cities has been met with resistance. Driverless taxi services, including Waymo and G.M.-owned Cruise, have been involved in recent high-profile collisions that sparked renewed safety concerns. 

    In late 2023, Cruise recalled 950 driverless cars and had its operating license suspended by regulators after a pedestrian involved in a separate hit-and-run was struck and dragged 20 feet by one of its self-driving vehicles. This came only months after a Cruise robotaxi failed to yield and collided with a firetruck in a San Francisco intersection. Last December, a Waymo robotaxi was involved in a minor collision with a pick-up truck being towed in the center lane of a Phoenix Street. Several minutes later, it happened again when a second Waymo driverless vehicle collided with the same truck.

    Proponents of self-driving vehicles argue that human drivers are just as prone to making dangerous errors while driving, if not more so, and in several collisions, driverless cars failed to respond to mistakes initially caused by humans. In Los Angeles, a city where car crashes initiated by everyday drivers now cause more deaths than homicides, road safety is already a significant concern. Local organizations like BikeLA advocate for improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety infrastructure, including protected bike lanes, widened sidewalks, and better street lighting. Measure HLA, a ballot initiative that would improve road safety on more than 2,500 miles of L.A. streets, was passed by voters last week. 

    Waymo has yet to announce an official launch date, but its ride-hailing service is expected to become available to consumers in the coming months.

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