Waymo Has Tens of Thousands of San Francisco Residents on a Waitlist to Take a Ride in One of its Robotaxis
As billions of dollars are being invested by automakers and tech startups to develop self-driving vehicles, not all of the public is on board. For many people, the idea of riding in the backseat of a vehicle without a driver behind the wheel is frightening. But others cannot wait to try out new autonomous driving technology, as is the case with Waymo, the company that spun out of Google self-driving car project.
Waymo plans to launch an app-based autonomous ride-hailing service in major U.S. cities called "Waymo One", which is similar to Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing providers. Waymo is planning to launch the service soon in San Francisco, and created a waitlist for people wanting to hail a ride in one of its fully-driverless vehicles. And that waitlist is big.
Waymo's co-CEO, Tekedra Mawakana, said on Friday that tens of thousands of San Francisco residents are on Waymo's waitlist. She made the remarks at the Reuters Next conference held this week.
Waymo has already given hundreds of people robotaxi rides since the limited test rollout of its robotaxi service began in August in San Francisco. However, progress toward wide-scale launch of a commercial service has been slow without a regulatory framework surrounding the deployment of commercial self-driving vehicles on public roads in the U.S.
San Francisco is just the second test city for passenger service for Waymo. The other city is Chandler Arizona, where Waymo has been testing its self-driving vehicles on public roads for the past several years.
Mawakana said that Waymo has deliberately selected diverse testers to try out its autonomous ride-hailing service in order to ensure feedback is representative of the broader population of the city. She said that half of San Francisco early riders are women.
"In San Francisco, we were very focused on making sure that there was gender diversity because safety and transportation is such an issue. Not only safety on the roads, but also physical safety," she said.
Waymo in August started giving fully autonomous rides, which are free of charge, to a limited number of people in San Francisco with safety drivers onboard. Waymo is using a fleet of Jaguar i-Pace electric SUVsfor its service, which have been outfitted with hardware for autonomous driving.
The company also has been offering paid rides in driverless minivans outside of Phoenix since Oct. 2020, as well as hauling freight using autonomous semi-trucks in Texas for the past several months with its autonomous trucking division Waymo Via.
In September, Waymo and its main rival Cruise, a company backed by General Motors, received one of the two regulatory permits to offer autonomous rides to passengers in California. The permits pave the way for a more broader deployment of autonomous ride-hailing services in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Unlike the California DMV autonomous testing permit, which doesn't allow companies to carry passengers, the new deployment permit allows companies to make its autonomous technology commercially available outside of a testing program.
In early 2022, Waymo will begin delivering grocery orders from one of the Safeway stores in San Francisco to select Waymo and Safeway employees as the company adds autonomous grocery delivery to its growing list of mobility services.
Waymo is widely considered to be the industry leader in autonomous driving technology in the U.S. Backed by the financial might of its parent company Google since 2009, the company took a large lead over its rivals in the testing of self-driving technology.
Waymo's fleet of autonomous vehicles has traveled over 20 million miles on public roads in the U.S., perfecting its autonomous driving stack called the "Waymo Driver".
Last month, Waymo deployed its autonomous test vehicles for the first time in New York City. The vehicles will be mapping the city in preparation for a more widespread deployment of the Waymo One service.
Also last month, Waymo Via began testing a small fleet of Class-8 autonomous trucks in partnership with UPS in Texas. Waymo and UPS will test the autonomous Class 8 trucks until the end of the year. The pilot will also help UPS deliver freight during the busy holiday season.
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