The decisions San Francisco and California make now will have a tremendous precedent-setting impact.
great read, as always. One addition to your list might be something to address the network scalability of these services and how that relates to “Pool”/“Line” features. It always felt sad to see two people waiting at the airport pre pandemic for their rides knowing that they may well be headed for a destination a block apart, and yet their rides fail to be matched not because of an algorithmic failure but rather the deliberate walled garden between the person ordering Uber Pool and Lyft Line. And now, in the post-pandemic era, it seems the companies have been really sluggish to launch them again at all, and I hypothesize that the economies of scale and tipping points might be what is holding them back from offering a compelling service at lower price than standard single person rides.
In a more mature state, robotaxi service feels more like something that aught to be consolidated at a regional level akin to a utility or municipal service. By having a regulated monopoly, perhaps competed for every 5 years, you could probably negotiate better policy terms with the operators and also reasonably expect a higher rate of shared passengers per vehicle by ensuring that all robotaxi requests are hailed through the same system. That data on when/where matching is most abundant also seems like an unbelievably good data source with which to plan bus service - if you can put terms for having access to it.
This is regulated monopoly model basically akin to how public transit works in Europe and in some US cities where private operators bid on service contracts for a municipal public transit system. Also true for paratransit services which are more similar. It’s also more similar to taxis - where within a given location there’s often only one operating taxi service but with tight municipal control.
Anyway, I don’t really trust people to get that kind of contract language right to mandate a single robotaxi operator and procure it today, but I hope we can get there.
I don't get the argument for treating these differently from any preexisting taxis or ride hailing. The externalities seem the same