Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle development subsidiary, is testing its self-driving cars for the first time in driverless urban traffic. However, no public vehicle ordering process is currently planned in San Francisco. Initially, only Waymo employees will be upgraded for free in Waymo’s hometown, the company wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.
Waymo has had experience with self-driving cars since 2017 in East Valley, a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, through its Early Rider, now Trusted Center. Since 2020, several hundred independent trips have been made on public transport every week.
Unlike traffic in the urban jungle in San Francisco, traffic in the East Valley is more manageable, so Waymo’s autonomous vehicles can handle it better. In addition, Waymo has been using its autonomous vehicles in Chandler since 2020, a city of about 300,000 residents that is also manageable in terms of traffic volume. Here, vehicles also drive autonomously in public places.
On the streets of San Francisco, vehicles must now also be able to dispense with a driver, Waymo writes in the blog post. According to the company, it is based on the experience it gathered in Phoenix and Chandler, as well as on billions of kilometers of simulation and testing.
In the past six months, trusted testers in San Francisco have gained experience in large city traffic, which has been incorporated into Waymo Driver’s development. The fifth generation of the autonomous system can now be deployed “quickly and safely” in San Francisco, says Dmitriy Dolgov, co-chair of Waymo. The Jaguar I-Pace electric, self-driving cars are currently scheduled to operate from early morning until late afternoon. Later it should be available around the clock.
Self-driving vehicles are not released to the general public. The company does not have permission to According to a report by The Wall Street Journal. A spokeswoman for Waymo declined to comment on the status of the permit application. For this reason, the company is initially only allowed to offer rides in San Francisco as a test drive, for a fee only if the driver is seated in the car as an operator so they can intervene in an emergency.
Cruise, a subsidiary of US automaker General Motors, is another step forward in operating a fully self-driving passenger transportation service. Cruise has been sending self-driving cars into the San Francisco Valleys since early February 2022. The cruise is not allowed to charge, but it can offer rides to the public. The company has already applied for a permit from the responsible authorities so that it can also offer excursions for a fee. Then the working hours must be extended. So far, the service is only available between 10:30 PM and 5 AM.