Los Angeles Mayor Has Issues with Driverless Cars

With more and more driverless cars hitting the road, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass is voicing her concerns.

Bass sent an open letter to the California Public Utilities Commission regarding a recent decision to approve a Driverless Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Passenger Deployment Program in the City of Los Angeles.

“I have serious concerns,” the Mayor said.

“A decision to allow AVs to operate in the City of Los Angeles without local regulation, and without a well-developed and collaborative deployment plan, will likely have adverse impacts on the residents of Los Angeles. As the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) has stated repeatedly in comments to the CPUC, responsible AV deployment demands early collaboration between state agencies, cities, and industry to set clear regulations that maximize the benefits of new transportation technologies for all our communities, while protecting emergency response capability, safety on our roads, and equitable service. To date, local jurisdictions like Los Angeles have had little to no input in AV deployment and are already seeing significant harm and disruption,” she added.

Bass made the following points.

  • Ignoring yellow emergency tape and warning signs to enter a street with compromised electrical wires, causing entanglement around the rooftop vehicle sensors;
  • Blocking firehouse driveways, requiring more distant resources to be dispatched, and increasing response times;
  • Sitting motionless on one-way streets, creating traffic and prohibiting emergency vehicles from responding to incidents;
  • Pulling up behind a fire truck with emergency lights on which interfered with firefighters unloading ladders; and
  • Entering an active fire scene, then parking on top of the fire hose.

Since that letter was sent, an AV blocked an ambulance in San Francisco, which first responders say contributed to the death of the individual being transported because the ambulance was unable to expeditiously make it to the hospital.

Earlier this month an AV rolled on top of a pedestrian struck by a human-driven vehicle and dragged them 20 feet at a speed of up to 7 miles per hour when it attempted an emergency maneuver, significantly contributing to life-threatening injuries. That operator’s self-reported data did not provide the full incident.

“The City of Los Angeles continues to work toward a system where every Angeleno has reliable, safe, and affordable transportation options that serve their needs. We continue to be optimistic about advancements in transportation technology that have the potential to increase mobility options for all, but we cannot meet these goals without direct input or authority over new modes. I am concerned that the CPUC will not consider the clear adverse impacts of unrestricted AV deployment in San Francisco in its decision to further deployment in Los Angeles. In a city that spans 500 square miles, has a population of approximately 4 million people, and contains 7,500 miles of roadways, the risk is exponentially greater.”

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