Waymo says it’s bringing robotaxis to L.A.
Driverless car company Waymo already operates autonomous taxi fleets in Phoenix and San Francisco. On deck: Los Angeles.
The company, owned by Google parent Alphabet, said Wednesday that it plans to make L.A. its next market. “L.A. is in the top three ride-hailing markets in the United States and globally,” said Saswat Panigrahi, the company’s chief product officer. “The commercial opportunity is huge.”
But Waymo offered scant information about its plans, including when the commercial service will begin and how extensive the service’s coverage will be.
The company has been mapping Los Angeles using human drivers since 2019. Next, a spokesman said, trained drivers will test out Waymo’s robot taxi service on L.A.-area highways and neighborhood thoroughfares, with runs downtown, along the Miracle Mile and in Koreatown, Santa Monica and West Hollywood.
The Google offshoot wants to be ready for California when the state is ready for driverless taxis.
At some point, a commercial operation will be launched, possibly with new neighborhoods added.
To charge for rides, Waymo must obtain a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission. The company declined to discuss pricing plans, but in Phoenix its fares are roughly comparable to those of Uber and Lyft.
The company is slowly rolling out commercial services in Phoenix, where it maintains several hundred cars. It provides driverless robotaxi services in several Phoenix suburbs and a mix of driverless cars and cars with backup drivers downtown.
Driverless car technology company Motional will be putting autonomous Hyundai Ioniq 5 EVs on the road around L.A. as it looks to the city for engineering talent.
Last year the company launched a small-scale commercial service in San Francisco for riders Waymo selected from an application list. The cars are autonomous but still arrive with a Waymo backup driver on board.
General Motors’ Cruise is operating a robotaxi service in San Francisco with no backup driver aboard. The CPUC is investigating the company after receiving an anonymous letter from a person claiming to work at Cruise who said the technology was not ready for public release. In September, Cruise recalled cars after a passenger was injured in a crash.
Other companies, including Ford’s Argo and Hyundai’s Motional, are conducting similar commercial pilots in other cities and states.
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