Waymo LLC Co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana announced this week that the autonomous vehicle technology company will soon start offering fully driverless rides in San Francisco with no safety driver on board.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company has been testing its Waymo One Trusted Tester program in the city since August. A selected number of San Francisco residents have been able to request rides in the Waymo Driver—a modified Jaguar I-Pace equipped with the company's fifth-generation self-driving technology. As part of the program, an autonomous specialist is along for each ride.
“Product updates like these are the result of careful improvements we’ve been making to the Waymo Driver as we expand our operations with the feedback from our Trusted Testers,” Mawakana wrote in a blog post. “As a result, we’re now ready to begin introducing the Waymo Driver in fully autonomous mode—with no specialist behind the wheel—in the city as a major step on our path to deploying a fully autonomous commercial service.”
More than 10,000 rides in San Francisco
The company said its Waymo Driver vehicles have driven billions of miles and have been tested in 13 states across the U.S.
The Waymo Driver uses “highly detailed custom maps, matched with real-time sensor data, to determine its exact road location at all times,” according to Waymo.
Mawakana said that hundreds of residents in San Francisco have participated in the Trusted Tester program. Collectively, riders have taken more than 10,000 rides, the company claimed.
“They’re from all walks of life and live throughout the city—from Lands End to Hunters Point—and they’ve been making our Waymo One service part of their daily lives, day and night,” Mawakana wrote.
Service up and running in Phoenix
Since October 2020, anyone in the East Valley of Phoenix has been able to hail a ride in one of Waymo’s self-driving cars using the Waymo One app. Waymo has been testing in the city since 2017, when it launched the Early Rider Program.
Waymo spun out of Google’s self-driving project which was started and led by technologist Sebastian Thrun in 2009. Google started conducting fully autonomous rides on public roads in 2015, and Waymo said it became an official company under Alphabet in 2016.
In June 2021, the company raised $2.5 billion in funding.
Waymo invests in autonomous trucking
Aside from ride-hailing, the company has been actively in the autonomous trucking space. In 2020, the company launched Waymo Via, its autonomous trucking unit.
In recent months, Waymo Via has announced it is working with several transportation services companies, including Ryder Systems, UPS, J.B. Hunt, and C.H. Robinson.
The global autonomous trucking market could grow to $2 billion by 2027, according to Fortune and Business Insights. The global autonomous ride-hailing service market is expected to reach $98 billion by 2028, predicted Research and Markets.
About the Author
Cesareo Contreras is associate editor at Robotics 24/7. Prior to working at Peerless Media, he was an award-winning reporter at the Metrowest Daily News and Milford Daily News in Massachusetts. Contreras is a graduate of Framingham State University and has a keen interest in the human side of emerging technologies.
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