Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle spin-off, is offering select members of the public access to its self-driving taxi service in San Francisco for the first time.
Residents who have chosen to participate in Waymo’s “Trusted Tester” scheme will be able to call in a driverless vehicle in the city’s more residential western and southern districts.
While the rides will be completed fully autonomously, a driver will still be behind the wheel, ready to take control in an instant if the need arises.
Anyone can sign up for the trial service, but Waymo hand-selects those who want to participate. The company said it is confident to launch the service after an initial rollout, open only to its employees, began in February.
“We’ve been driving in the city for over a dozen years, have driven more autonomous driving in California than anyone in the industry, and started ramping up our testing by offering autonomous driving to our employees earlier this year. in San Francisco,” Waymo said in a blog post.
“Now, for the first time, San Franciscans can drive autonomously in one of our all-electric Jaguar I-Pace vehicles equipped with the fifth-generation Waymo Driver.”
In the same way as taxi services such as Uber, users must use the Waymo One app to schedule their pick-up service and determine their destination. It has already launched a service in Phoenix, Arizona, where users can also book a taxi through the Google Maps app.
A 2018 report shows that Waymo is expected to dominate the autonomous vehicle sector by 2030, capturing about 60 percent of the market.
But when speaking to Reuters about its service in San Francisco, Waymo senior product manager Sam Kansara acknowledged that autonomous vehicles are rolling out slower than the burgeoning industry initially expected.
“There is still a lot to be done,” he said. “This is a step to get more information now so that we can inform our roadmap.”
One of the hurdles facing the industry is the excessive prudence from regulators around the world.
Last year, the UK government launched a consultation on whether or not to allow a simplified form of driverless technology – Automated Lane Keeping Systems – on UK roads.