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 robo taxis has for the first time driven in San Francisco without a human behind the wheel.
Tekedra Mawakana, the CEO of Waymo, said
We’re particularly excited about this next phase of our journey as we officially bring our rider-only technology to San Francisco—the city many of us at Waymo call home.
We’ve learned so much from our San Francisco Trusted Testers over the last six months, not to mention the innumerable lessons from our riders in the years since launching our fully autonomous service in the East Valley of Phoenix. Both of which have directly impacted how we bring forward our service as we welcome our first employee riders in SF.
The video above shows part of that first driverless drive, with a split screen showing both the normal camera feed and what the vehicle sees. It’s worth noting that it seems to have a great view of all road users around it and it also sees others in great detail - you can even see cyclists’ legs move as they pedal.
The company’s self-driving vehicles won’t be traveling all over San Francisco and they will be limited to driving in an area stretching from the Presidio to Candlestick Point. This area will be expanded upon in the future, just as Waymo did in its home town of Phoenix, Arizona, where the service was recently brought downtown for the first time.
Because Waymo only has a license to test autonomous vehicles in California, it is currently only offering rides to its employees and that's what it will keep offering, although now there doesn't need to be a safety driver in the vehicle; members of its Trusted Tester program still require the safety driver.
It has so far not announced when it plans to get a license to also charge people for autonomous rides, but it will probably do it fairly soon, in order to keep up with GM's Cruise, which has already been ferrying passengers in the city since February.