Waymo begins fully driverless robotaxi rides in SF

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Since its founding in 2009, Waymo has developed three different robotaxi platforms. | Source: Waymo

Waymo has started giving fully driverless robotaxi rides to its employees in San Francisco. The company also announced its plan to open up its robotaxi service in downtown Phoenix.

This morning, an all-electric Jaguar I-PACE picked up a Waymo engineer on their way to work. The robotaxi even stopped to let the employee get coffee on the way. This news comes less than a month after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued Waymo a Drivered Deployment permit, allowing the company to charge for its autonomous rides.

“We’re particularly excited about this next phase of our journey as we officially bring our rider-only technology to San Francisco – the city many of us at Waymo call home,” co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana said. “We’ve learned so much from our San Francisco Trusted Testers over the last six months, not to mention the innumerable lessons from our riders in the years since launching our fully autonomous service in the East Valley of Phoenix. Both of which have directly impacted how we bring forward our service as we welcome our first employee riders in San Francisco.”

Waymo was first given the green light to begin public robotaxi rides in California in October 2021. The permit it received from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) allowed the company to operate its robotaxis with human safety drivers behind the wheel.

Today’s drive, with no human driver behind the wheel, marks an important step for the company, but not a first. Waymo has been giving fully autonomous public rides in the east valley of Phoenix since 2020. The company’s roots in the area will help facilitate its next deployment in downtown Phoenix. Waymo plans to start with drivered rides for its employees, then move to giving rides with members of its Trusted Tester program before opening it up to the general public. 

“Building a safe, robust, and generalizable autonomous driver – the Waymo Driver – whose capabilities and performance transfer well between geographies and product lines is our main focus,” Dmitri Dolgov, Waymo co-CEO, said. “Just as our previous experience allowed us to deploy our 5th-gen Driver in San Francisco quickly and with confidence, the combination of our experience in San Francisco and Phoenix’s East Valley, grounded in millions of miles of real-world driving and boosted by billions of miles driven in simulation, is already guiding our progress in Downtown Phoenix and sets us up for future expansion of our fully autonomous ride-hailing service.”

Waymo isn’t the only company deploying robotaxis in San Francisco. Cruise’s co-founder Kyle Vogt was the company’s first passenger in one of the company’s entirely driverless vehicles in November 2021. Cruise was also approved to charge for driverless rides a month before the ride. 

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