Robotaxi pushback grows in Los Angeles as Cruise loses permits

Less than a month after Waymo's Los Angeles County expansion, labor organizers and an LA lawmaker are calling for new autonomous-vehicle regulations.

On Tuesday, the office of LA Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez said he will introduce a motion "urging officials in the state to address public safety concerns around autonomous vehicles (AVs) and reign in the expansion of robotaxis in Los Angeles." The office cited both Waymo and Cruise in the statement.

The announcement came shortly after the California DMV yanked Cruise's robotaxi permits in a serious blow to the AV company. The DMV said in its suspension order that Cruise withheld video footage of its robotaxi hitting a pedestrian in San Francisco on October 2, impeding the agency's ongoing investigation of the incident.

Back in Los Angeles, Soto-Martínez's motion will call for LA City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto to join San Francisco's existing robotaxi lawsuit against the California Public Utilities Commission. The CPUC is one of the regulatory bodies overseeing the rollout of autonomous vehicles in California; it gave Waymo and Crusie the greenlight to expand in San Francisco back in August.

Soto-Martínez represents LA's 13th district, which includes Silverlake, Atwater Village, Little Armenia and Little Bangladesh. The lawmaker's office said he will introduce the motion at Wednesday's city council meeting, following a press conference with Teamsters leader Chris Griswold.

Reached by TechCrunch, a Waymo representative declined to comment on Soto-Martínez's pending motion, while Cruise did not respond.

Last week, another LA lawmaker — Councilmember Traci Park — introduced a motion calling for reports on the city's ability to regulate autonomous vehicles. "The City will need to address the potential impacts of these vehicles on the road," the motion said. Park represents the city's 11th district, including Venice, Sawtelle and Brentwood.

Meanwhile, Teamsters just led its second rally in Santa Monica in as many weeks over "ongoing safety concerns with robotaxis." The organizers said they timed the Tuesday event to coincide with Alphabet and Google's latest earnings report.

Dozens of people gathered outside Google's headquarters in Venice to draw the attention of elected officials, Teamsters Local 396 communications head Adan Alvarez told TechCrunch. "Our communities shouldn't be lab rats for this dangerous technology," he said, standing near a gigantic binoculars statue at the beachside office. "Clearly it's not safe, and our local elected officials should look into what can be done to protect the safety, protect the common good," said Alvarez.

The Teamsters rep cited Governor Gavin Newsom's decision to veto a bill requiring human drivers in trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Alvarez said the veto gives tech firms a "green light to start experimenting with larger vehicles" and puts drivers' jobs at risk.

Waymo's LA expansion has been a long time coming. The company started mapping the city in 2019, and it kicked off robotaxi ride testing with employees in Santa Monica around March 2023. Waymo intends to expand in Los Angeles city proper "soon," per the company's website.

GM-backed Cruise has also tested autonomous vehicles in LA. The DMV's suspensions leave room for Cruise to continue operating in the city, so long as a human driver is present behind the wheel.