Waymo self-driving cars start ride service in San Francisco

After successfully offering rides to passengers for the past couple of years in Phoenix, Arizona, Waymo has now expanded its Waymo One self-driving taxi service to the busy streets of San Francisco, California.

The San Francisco service started on Tuesday and is still in a trial phase, as the first passengers are all part of an invite-only research program known as Trusted Tester. There’s also a safety driver on board for emergencies and the service is limited to a small geofenced area.

Waymo will slowly expand the service to more passengers and use their feedback to shape the service ahead of a public launch at a yet-to-be-disclosed date. In Phoenix, Waymo offered the first rides as part of trial starting in 2017 and followed with the public launch in 2020, though Covid-19 caused delays. According to the company, its Phoenix service has offered tens of thousands of rides since October 2020.

Waymo has been testing self-driving cars in San Francisco for more than 12 years, starting when the company was still a skunkworks team at parent company Google. It started offering rides to its own employees in San Francisco earlier this year.

Waymo uses Jaguar I-Pace electric crossovers for the San Francisco service. It uses Chrysler Pacifica minivans for the Phoenix service. The vehicles are controlled by Waymo’s own self-driving system, known as the Waymo Driver, which is now in its fifth generation. The system is ranked at Level 4 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability as it can drive on its own, though only with restrictions. Level 5 is the ultimate goal, as this represents a system that can drive at the same level as a human.

Waymo’s long-term goal is to develop a robust and reliable self-driving system capable of handling roads all over the world. The company doesn’t plan to manufacture self-driving cars but rather to offer the technology as a service or directly to other firms via license. The company is developing its system for both passenger vehicles, and commercial vehicles like delivery vans and semi-trailer trucks. Waymo’s self-driving delivery service will be known as Waymo Via.

Source: Motor Authority

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