Waymo Advice Letter - CPUC Driverless Deployment Service Area Expansion

Terra Curtis, Interim Director
Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division
California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102-3214
RE: Waymo Advice Letter 0002 (Tier 2) - CPUC Driverless Deployment Service Area Expansion
February 08, 2024

Dear Director Curtis,

As the President of the National Federation of the Blind, I am writing to express our unwavering support for granting Waymo a permit to provide commercial autonomous vehicle service in Los Angeles.

The National Federation of the Blind is the transformative membership and advocacy organization of blind Americans, led by elected blind leaders. We are deeply committed to advancing the rights and independence of blind and low-vision Americans. Accessible transportation is not merely a convenience; it is a fundamental necessity that empowers our community to participate fully in society, access employment opportunities, and engage in daily activities.

By extending their fully autonomous ride-hailing service to Los Angeles, Waymo can significantly enhance mobility options for blind and low-vision individuals. Imagine the newfound freedom of using a self-driving vehicle independently, without relying on sighted assistance or traditional transportation services. This fulfills the dreams of countless blind Americans to have full autonomy over our transportation in the same manner as every other citizen who has a driver's license.

Autonomous vehicles empower blind and low-vision individuals to travel fully independently, reducing dependence on others and fostering self-sufficiency. Waymo’s commitment to accessibility features, such as voice-guided interfaces and tactile feedback, ensures that blind passengers can confidently use their service, bridging existing gaps in transportation accessibility.

Blind and low-vision Americans deserve equal access to cutting-edge technology, and the CPUC has the opportunity to advance this technology in the second largest city in the United States by granting Waymo a permit, the CPUC can actively contribute to inclusion and equity in reimagining transportation opportunities. As someone who demonstrated the first blind drivable vehicle in 2011 and who has ridden in autonomous vehicles here and in other nations, I believe that Waymo is demonstrating the highest commitment to addressing the concerns and needs of the broadest range of people.

In conclusion, the National Federation of the Blind firmly believes that Waymo’s autonomous vehicle service aligns seamlessly with our vision of an inclusive and accessible future. We respectfully request the CPUC's favorable consideration in granting Waymo the necessary permit, allowing them to bring their innovative technology to Los Angeles and positively impact the lives of countless residents.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. Should you require additional information or wish to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly.

Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind