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On the cusp of 24/7 service, robotaxis face pleas and protest in San Francisco

In an aerial view, Waymo autonomous vehicles sit parked in a staging area
Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

On a recent Friday evening, a driverless car pulled up alongside an outdoor dining shed in the Mission district of San Francisco, put on its hazard lights, and waited. As traffic began to pile up behind the vehicle, a man smoking a cigarette outside a nearby bar rolled his eyes.

“I don’t drive a car,” he grumbled, “so I don’t really care about these things.”

Other residents of this hilly city by the bay are not so ambivalent about the coming onslaught of autonomous cars. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is poised to vote this Thursday on whether to allow Cruise and Waymo, the two main companies with autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, to expand their paid ridehailing services to operate 24/7.

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