Waymo will test driverless rides with employees in Los Angeles

by Ana Lopez

Waymo will begin testing its autonomous Jaguar I-Paces without a human safety operator in Los Angeles in the coming weeks. This is the company’s next step in the commercialization of robotaxi services in its second city in California.

For starters, only employees can call rides in the self-driving robotaxis. While Waymo has been mapping several LA neighborhoods since 2019, including Downtown, Miracle Mile, Koreatown, and Westwood, the company is starting rider-only testing in Santa Monica before gradually ramping up. Services will be available “outside of traditional peak hours,” a spokesperson told businessupdates.org.

The self-driving tech company, owned by Alphabet, first announced plans in October to launch a 24/7 robotaxi service in LA. A month later, the California Department of Motor Vehicles granted Waymo an amendment to its existing driverless test permit to allow it to expand beyond San Francisco and into Los Angeles.

At that time, the DMV also authorized Waymo to begin charging for services, such as delivery, driven fully autonomously in San Francisco. Today, Waymo operates a commercial robotaxi service in the city, but it can only charge passengers for rides if a human safety operator is in the front seat. The company is still awaiting the final permit it needs from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to charge for self-driving robotaxi services in San Francisco.

Waymo wouldn’t say when it expects to open driverless rides to members of its Trusted Tester program, members of the public who have signed non-disclosure agreements to participate. To do that, it must secure yet another permit from the CPUC, the driverless pilot permit.

There are still a few permits to be obtained before Waymo can begin a real commercial robotaxi service in LA, which could mean months of testing and deployment. The company is confident it will be able to scale faster in LA than in San Francisco, thanks to Waymo’s “demonstrated drivership and quality of on-road operations,” as well as the capabilities of its fifth-generation Driver.

“Excited by the data that reaffirms how well our ML-based 5th Gen Driver generalizes across cities!” tweeted Waymo co-CEO Dmitri Dolgov.

Waymo also recently opened fully autonomous rides from downtown Phoenix to the airport for members of the public. The company has been running a paid robotaxi service in Chandler, just outside of Phoenix, since 2020.

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