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Waymo’s Robotaxi Service Arrives in Austin

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 16, 2024
Waymo’s Robotaxi Service Arrives in Austin

Waymo’s Robotaxi Service Arrives in Austin

Waymo, the autonomous vehicle division of Alphabet, is making significant strides in the evolution of urban transportation with the announcement of its commercial robotaxi service’s impending arrival in Austin by the year’s end. This development, revealed by Waymo’s co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana at the SXSW festival, positions Austin alongside Los Angeles as the latest city to benefit from Waymo’s cutting-edge driverless technology.

From Los Angeles to Austin

In the wake of this announcement, it’s noteworthy that Waymo has already commenced the public offering of its robotaxi service in Los Angeles earlier this week, further emphasizing the company’s rapid expansion efforts. Austin’s selection as a target city for Waymo’s service rollout is a testament to the city’s growing status as a tech hub and its openness to innovative transportation solutions.

The groundwork for this futuristic commuting option has been laid through extensive testing and validation of Waymo’s driverless vehicles across approximately 43 square miles encompassing key neighborhoods such as downtown, Barton Hills, Riverside, East Austin, and Hyde Park. Remarkably, the company reached a pivotal milestone just a week prior to the announcement, with its autonomous vehicles navigating Austin’s streets without a safety operator behind the wheel for the first time. This achievement underscores Waymo’s confidence in the safety and reliability of its technology and sets the stage for the public launch of the service.

The operational model for Waymo’s robotaxi service is straightforward yet revolutionary. Through the Waymo One app, users will have the ability to hail a ride in a driverless car, a convenience that promises to redefine urban mobility. Moreover, the commencement of this service in Austin will mark the city as the fourth locale where Waymo has introduced a commercial driverless service. Waymo currently operates or plans to operate robotaxi services in:

  1. Phoenix: Already operational with a comprehensive robotaxi service.
  2. San Francisco: Service operational 24/7 following regulatory approval.
  3. Los Angeles: Starting with free rides before transitioning to a paid service.
  4. Austin: Planned launch by the end of the year, expanding Waymo’s innovative urban mobility solutions.

How Waymo Cleared Regulatory Hurdles for Its Robotaxi Service

In Los Angeles, Waymo’s approach involves initially offering rides within a 63-square-mile area stretching from Santa Monica to downtown, with the service being free at the outset before transitioning to a paid model, stated in a blog post. This phased approach reflects Waymo’s strategy of gradually integrating its service into the fabric of urban transportation, ensuring a smooth adoption process for residents. Additionally, the company is actively engaging the community by onboarding individuals from its 50,000-strong Los Angeles waitlist and distributing temporary codes at local events, fostering a sense of inclusion and anticipation.

The regulatory environment presents a contrast between Texas and California, with the latter requiring comprehensive approvals from the Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for the deployment of commercial robotaxi services. Despite these challenges, Waymo achieved a significant regulatory milestone in August by securing permission to operate its service 24/7 in San Francisco, demonstrating its ability to navigate complex regulatory landscapes.

The CPUC’s recent approval for Waymo to operate a commercial driverless service in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Peninsula, and on San Francisco freeways marks a critical step forward. This approval not only broadens Waymo’s operational territory in one of the nation’s largest cities but also facilitates a direct route to San Francisco International Airport, highlighting the strategic expansion of Waymo’s service footprint.

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Featured Image courtesy of Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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