Waymo will begin testing its autonomous Jaguar I-Paces without a human safety operator in Los Angeles in the next couple of weeks. This is the company's next step on its path to commercializing robotaxi services in its second California city.
To start, only employees will be able to hail rides in the driverless robotaxis. While Waymo has been mapping several LA neighborhoods, including Downtown, Miracle Mile, Koreatown and Westwood, since 2019, the company will start its rider-only testing in Santa Monica before gradually ramping up. Services will be available "outside of traditional rush hour times," a spokesperson told TechCrunch.
The Alphabet-owned self-driving technology company first announced plans to launch a 24/7 robotaxi service in LA back in October. A month later, the California Department of Motor Vehicles granted Waymo a modification to its existing driverless testing permit so it could expand beyond San Francisco and into Los Angeles.
At that time, the DMV also granted Waymo permission to begin charging for services, like delivery, driven fully autonomously in San Francisco. Today, Waymo operates a commercial robotaxi service in the city, but it can only charge passengers for rides when a human safety operator is in the front seat. The company is still awaiting the final permit it needs from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to charge for driverless robotaxi services in San Francisco.
Waymo wouldn't say when it expects to open driverless rides to members of its Trusted Tester program, members of the public who have signed non-disclosure agreements to participate. To do that, it'll need to secure yet another permit from the CPUC, the driverless pilot permit.
There are a few more permits to secure before Waymo can begin a proper commercial robotaxi service in LA, which might mean more months of testing and deployment. The company is confident that it'll be able to achieve faster scale in LA than it has in San Francisco due to Waymo's "demonstrated drivership and quality of on-road operations," as well as the capabilities of its fifth-generation Driver.
"Thrilled by the data confirming, once again, how well our ML-based 5th-gen Driver generalizes across cities!" tweeted Waymo co-CEO Dmitri Dolgov.
Waymo also recently opened to members of the public fully autonomous rides from downtown Phoenix to the airport. The company has been running a paid robotaxi service in Chandler, just outside of Phoenix, since 2020.