The California Public Utilities Commission, the regulator that has been giving PG&E a leg up on our safety for years, is back at it.
For once, the commissioners (all appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom) are allowing self-driving car companies to endanger the lives of Californians.
The day will come when robo-taxis will be able to move freely on our streets and roads. But that day is still far in the future.
CPUC’s mission is to serve the public good by protecting consumers. But on August 10, the committee ignored serious safety concerns and voted 3-1 to allow GM subsidiary Cruise and Alphabet-owned Waymo to expand robo-taxis across San Francisco around the clock. threw.
Until now, cruises have been limited to offering nighttime paid rides and limited to parts of San Francisco. Waymo could only offer free rides.
The next day, 10 robo-taxis suddenly stopped in the city’s popular North Beach neighborhood, causing a 15-minute traffic jam. Later that week, San Francisco City Board of Supervisors Chairman Aaron Peskin said the cruise car stopped 15 feet behind the stop line on Vallejo Avenue and crashed through the stop sign as it entered busy four-lane Columbus Avenue. witnessed. Then on Thursday, a passenger was injured when a driverless cruise vehicle collided with a fire engine at an intersection in San Francisco.
As Peskin says, these cars are clearly not ready for prime time.
At least the California Department of Motor Vehicles was aware of the problem. On Friday, the DMV asked Cruise to halve the number of vehicles it operates in San Francisco, and Cruise agreed.
San Francisco Attorney David Chiu is now asking the CPUC to suspend the permits for Cruise and Waymo.
Rather, the commission responsible for regulating California’s passenger transportation companies is displaying the same kind of incompetence that plagued it during the PG&E debacle. The Commission has repeatedly allowed utilities to put profit over safety, resulting in PG&E being found guilty of two felonies in connection with the devastating San Bruno gas pipe explosion and campfire tragedy. sentenced.
Now the commission is showing similar incompetence when it comes to self-driving cars. One member, John Reynolds, said at a six-hour hearing on Aug. 10 that the CPUC did not have the basic data needed to make decisions about the safety of self-driving cars and human-driven cars. admitted.
That didn’t stop the commission from approving the service expansion.
It is outrageous that Reynolds, a former general counsel for GM-backed Cruise, similarly did not withdraw his vote on past decisions on self-driving cars. He said the “passage of time” made it possible to vote on the resolution.
Reynolds’ decision is a solemn reminder of the ethical error of judgment routinely demonstrated by former CPUC Chairman Michael Peavy from 2009 to 2015.
Peavy’s job was to protect California consumers. Rather, he was PG&E’s biggest ally in avoiding responsibility for the San Bruno tragedy that killed 8, injured 66, and destroyed 38 homes. Mr. Peavy sought to limit fines to utilities, even though multiple investigations found PG&E prioritized profit over safety in installing and testing gas pipes. Peavy reportedly went so far as to assist PG&E with Judge Shopping, which seeks out sympathetic talent for power companies as it decides on $1.3 billion in penalties.
He should have been fired, but Governor Jerry Brown inexplicably kept him in office. Mr. Peavy’s actions were so outrageous that then state attorney general Kamala Harris called for improper “one-sided communication, hoarding of judges, obstruction of justice, due control of law, facilitation and favoritism.” An investigation was launched with the allegation. Sadly, Harris’ successor, Xavier Becerra, was either unable to complete the investigation or did not publish the results.
Reynolds’ vote has no greater impact than Peavy’s crime. But it’s a misjudgment that calls into question Reynolds’ objectivity on fundamental safety issues affecting Californians.
The CPUC must stop being a protectorate of special interests and start protecting public safety. In this case, it means commissioners should suspend Cruise and Waymo’s extended permits until regulators have enough data to ensure that self-driving cars meet basic safety standards. do.