If you live in the Bay Area, you probably have come across one of the numerous autonomous vehicles being tested around the streets of San Francisco. I happened to be in San Francisco over the Summer for a Dodgers game and came across not one but two different autonomous vehicle startups testing their vehicles on the streets of San Francisco.
The most well-known and well-funded of the autonomous vehicle pack, Waymo, the self-driving startup owned by Alphabet Inc., just announced on Monday that it is ready to launch a fully autonomous-driving service in San Francisco.
Here’s my encounter with a Waymo over the Summer being tested in San Francisco:
“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,” Waymo Co-Chief Executive Tekedra Mawakana said in a blog post.
Waymo launched a test program in August that provided free autonomous taxi rides in its vehicles to a small group of people. Mawakana stated that the testing assisted Waymo in making changes to how its vehicles drive in San Francisco, such as “careful tweaks to our braking patterns” to handle the city’s many four-way stops and how to more easily drive the city’s many steep hills.
Waymo expects its cars will enhance street safety in San Francisco, citing the city’s worrying number of pedestrians hurt and killed by vehicles last year.
She did not provide a start date for the completely autonomous service, but said additional information will be released in the following months. It was unclear if the completely self-driving service will be utilized for deliveries or as a taxi service.
Waymo received approval from California state officials earlier this year to charge for taxi trips in its self-driving vehicles with a safety driver present. However, charging for entirely autonomous rides will require a different approval.
Waymo already runs a completely autonomous taxi service available to the general public in Phoenix.