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Waymo takes its next step – in the city by the bay

On March 30, in San Francisco, a fully autonomous all-electric Jaguar I-Pace, with no human driver behind the wheel, picked up a Waymo engineer to get their morning coffee and go to work.

Since Waymo shared the fact that they were ready to take the next step and begin testing fully autonomous operations in the city, they have begun fully autonomous rides with their San Francisco employees. They now join the thousands of Waymo One riders we’ve been serving in Arizona, making fully autonomous driving technology part of their daily lives.

“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,” said co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana. “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 SF.”

While removing the human driver from their vehicles in San Francisco is a significant milestone, this is not Waymo’s first time deploying fully autonomous vehicles in a city. In the company’s blog, the Waymo team states, “This step we’re taking in SF comes from years of experience deploying our technology in the East Valley of Phoenix, beginning first with our Early Rider Program (now Trusted Tester) in 2017, then introducing fully autonomous public rides in 2020, to serving hundreds of rides weekly.

“Our commitment to Phoenix and the community there remains strong, and we’ll soon be expanding to another area: Downtown Phoenix. Just as we’ve done before, we’ll start with Waymo employees hailing trips with autonomous specialists behind the wheel, with the goal of opening it up to members of the public via our Trusted Tester program soon after.

“All of this cumulative experience, not to mention the valuable feedback from our riders, allows us to continue to build incredible operational expertise in deploying and operating a fully autonomous fleet. Notably, this is the first time any company is simultaneously running fully autonomous ride-hailing operations in multiple cities, and we look forward to being able to serve more riders and continue learning from them.”

Image: Waymo

“Building a safe, robust, and generalisable autonomous driver—the Waymo Driver—whose capabilities and performance transfer well between geographies and product lines is our main focus,” said Dmitri Dolgov, Waymo co-CEO. “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.”

“These important steps all help bring us closer to our mission of making it safer and easier for people and things to get where they’re going,” explains the Waymo team in their blog. “We’re delighted that our teammates in San Francisco who are working tirelessly to help build the Waymo Driver are now, along with enthusiastic residents who are members of our Trusted Tester program, able to ride with us throughout the city. If you’re interested in helping us shape the future of autonomous ride-hailing, whether as a Trusted Tester or a future Waymonaut, we’d love to have you on this journey with us.” 

Those interested in a deep dive on Waymo’s robust safety methodologies, may want to review this summary, which provides a deeper look at the detailed analysis and validation methods Waymo uses to determine the Waymo Driver’s readiness across its hardware, software, and operational layers.

Photo – top of page – copyright 2022 Waymo

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