Waymo demonstrates self-driving technology in San Francisco

Waymo has been operating its driverless vehicles in San Francisco since the summer of 2021, but until recently they all had a safety driver behind the wheel. Now the company has announced that one of its specially equipped self-driving Jaguar I-Pace robot taxi for the first time drove in San Francisco without a human behind the wheel.

Tekedra Mawakana, CEO of Waymo, said

We’re especially excited about this next phase of our journey as we officially bring our passenger-only technology to San Francisco, the city many of us at Waymo call home.

We’ve learned so much from our trusted San Francisco testers over the past six months, not to mention countless lessons from our riders over the years since launching our fully self-driving service in the Phoenix East Valley. Both have had a direct impact on how we deliver our service as we welcome our first employee riders to SF.

The video above shows some of that first driverless ride, with a split screen showing both the normal camera feed and what the vehicle sees. It’s worth noting that he seems to have a great view of all the road users around him, and also sees others in great detail – you can even see the cyclists’ legs moving as they pedal.

The company’s self-driving vehicles won’t operate throughout San Francisco and will be limited to driving in an area stretching from the Presidio to Candlestick Point. This area will be expanded in the future, just as Waymo has done in its hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, where the service was recently brought downtown for the first time.

Because Waymo only has a license to test self-driving vehicles in California, it currently only offers rides to its employees and members of its Trusted Tester program and that is what it will continue to offer, although there is no longer a need to be a safety driver in the vehicle.

So far it hasn’t announced when it plans to get a license to also charge people for self-driving rides, but it will likely do so soon enough, to keep pace with GM’s Cruise, which already carries paying passengers in the city (although only with a safety driver in the car for now).

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