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Taxi drivers protest expansion of driverless cars

Waymo self-driving car
Courtesy of Waymo
Courtesy of Waymo
Waymo self-driving car

Last week, taxi drivers gathered at the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, to protest the possible expansion of autonomous taxi services in San Francisco.

The CPUC will vote on the expansion next week. If they vote yes, companies Waymo and Cruise will be able to charge for driverless cab services to passengers at all hours and without geographic restrictions.

Protesters expressed concerns about inequalities brought forth by driverless taxis. In San Francisco, a taxi driver’s medallion – required to operate in the city – costs $250 thousand. Driverless car companies are not subject to the same fees.

Evelyn Engel, a board member at the Taxi Workers Alliance, said, “This is premature approval of an immature technology.”

Transit, city planning, and emergency service authorities have also criticized the possible expansion.

Currently, driverless cabs in the city can only carry passengers between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am in mild weather conditions. They’re also limited in geography – and cannot currently operate in lanes with light rail transit or across active highway-rail crossings.

The vote will take place on July 13.

Laura Isaza is an audio journalist primarily covering climate and the environment. Born and raised in the Seattle area, she came to the Bay to attend UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. On her off time, you'll most likely find her skiing up and down mountains or attempting to climb rocks.