Waymo can now charge for robotaxi rides in LA and on San Francisco freeways

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Waymo received approval Friday afternoon from the California Public Utilities Commission to operate a commercial robotaxi service in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Peninsula and on San Francisco freeways.

The approval removes the last barrier for the Alphabet company to charge for rides in these expanded areas. Importantly, it opens up new territory for Waymo in one of the country’s largest cities and unlocks a route to San Francisco International Airport, which is located south of the city.

Waymo has operated a commercial service 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the city of San Francisco since receiving approval from the commission in August. Waymo is also allowed to give people free driverless rides in parts of Los Angeles. But until today’s approval, it was not able to charge for rides in Los Angeles.

Last month, the CPUC’s Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division suspended Waymo’s application to expand its robotaxi service in Los Angeles and San Mateo counties for up to 120 days to provide extra time for review. The CPUC said it received 81 responses and five protests, which the agency said “required a little extra time beyond the 30 days to carefully review and incorporate into the staff decision.”

Waymo, which kicked off a community tour of Los Angeles in October, was wrapping up its final neighborhood stop as it awaited final approval.

The CPUC decision comes just a day after Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana discussed the future of the company and the broader autonomous vehicle industry at TechCrunch’s Strictly VC event in Los Angeles. She said that Waymo robotaxis had received a “warm welcome” in the city with more than 15,000 people using the service. She said that trip data showed customers were using the service for everyday errands.

“It’s exciting to see that like 2,000 of those trips are like, people going to very, very basic errands, right which is that’s going to run an errand in a Waymo is like using it for your life,” Mawakana said. “Similarly, people are taking it to restaurants, bars at the same number, like 2,000 trips. And then 300 of the trips are people going to school, college as well as K through 12. So we like that signal that people aren’t just giving us a warm welcome, but they are really integrating into their lives.”

She said 50,000 people have joined the waitlist to use the service in Los Angeles.

This story is developing …

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