Waymo operates fully driverless Jaguar I-Pace EVs in San Francisco. With this, the company is operating driverless cars in more than one city. The alphabet-owned brand started its trails with no backup drivers. Almost till last year, the company has been operating autonomous vehicles with a safety driver who is there as a backup. But now the self-driving company has been receiving approvals as many improvements have developed.
The tests are limited to employees hailing rides in the company’s early service area, but this still represents a major milestone — the company claimed in a message to Engadget that it was the first anywhere to offer autonomous ride-hailing in two different territories.
It is observed to have an expanded footprint in Arizona. Waymo said it will expand fully autonomous rides to downtown Phoenix, starting with employees. Members of the public in the Trusted Tester program can hail rides “soon after,” Waymo said. t’s not certain when Waymo might offer trips to the general public in San Francisco. The company recently received permission to charge for self-driving rides in California, but only as long as there’s a backup driver aboard. Still, both rollouts indicate greater confidence on Waymo’s part. It’s more willing to test its autonomous system in densely-populated areas, where traffic and roadwork can be huge headaches, and without leaning as much on human safety nets.
A self-driving technology pioneer, Waymo started the first U.S. driverless taxi service in 2020, over a decade after it was born in 2009 as a project inside Google. While it gives paid rides to hundreds of people a week using Chrysler minivans, Waymo’s service has not expanded beyond suburban Phoenix areas that cover about 50 square miles or 129.5 square kilometers. Waymo in August started giving autonomous rides free of charge to a limited number of people in San Francisco with safety drivers on board, using its Jaguar electric vehicles equipped with sensors such as spinning lidars on the top. Waymo needs to receive at least two more permits from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Public Utilities Commission to start charging passengers for driverless rides in San Francisco.
Cruise already is giving fully driverless rides to employees and members of the public free of charge in San Francisco. The company is seeking CPUC approval for commercial driverless service, with a goal to get permitted this year. Self-driving technology firms, which have attracted billions of dollars of investments, face challenges of scaling up their technology, after missing their earlier targets to launch commercial services.