Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass is pushing for the city to gain regulatory authority over the expansion of robotaxi companies within its jurisdiction, rather than having this authority rest with a state agency.
In an open letter to the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates commercial robotaxi operations in California, Bass emphasized that Los Angeles is better equipped to regulate autonomous vehicle (AV) services within its boundaries and should set the requirements for future deployments. This move comes as Waymo expands its robotaxi operations in the city, highlighting the growing importance of local control in AV regulation.
Bass’s stance not only puts her at odds with some LA councilmembers, who recently expressed safety and job-loss concerns to robotaxi companies, but also reflects her commitment to optimizing the benefits of emerging technology while minimizing harm within diverse communities.
The letter underscores the challenge of local lawmakers having limited control over technology that directly impacts their citizens. It sets a precedent for other mayors to potentially advocate for increased local control over AV deployment, which could affect AV companies like Waymo, just beginning to scale their operations.
Additionally, the letter implies that Bass seeks to address a potential political crisis by asserting local authority over AVs before conflicts escalate further. The mayor highlights the need for local input in AV deployment and cites an example in which a robotaxi failed to properly identify or obey a traffic officer’s instructions.
While Bass believes Los Angeles is equipped to oversee AVs, the Transportation Committee is still working to clarify the city’s authority over AV use and increase transparency around AV data. Meanwhile, both Waymo and Cruise, key players in the AV industry, responded to the situation, with Waymo expressing disappointment but continuing its expansion plans in LA.