Waymo's driverless cars roll into Austin
Waymo is announcing Friday that it's testing a new generation of autonomous vehicles in Austin.
Driving the news: The company, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, will be testing its equipment on Jaguar SUVs in areas in and near downtown, including Clarksville, Bouldin Creek, Holly and the Capitol.
Flashback: In 2015, Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, became the first person in the world to ride in a fully autonomous vehicle — a Waymo prototype with no human driver — on ordinary residential streets in Mueller, per the company.
- "My ride was just a taste of what the world will be like: ordinary, but self-driving," Mahan wrote in the American-Statesman in 2017.
Catch up quick: Waymo now operates ride-hail services in San Francisco and Phoenix with self-driving cars.
What they're saying: "A lot of the experiences you encounter on Austin’s roads are useful for what we’re already doing in San Francisco and Phoenix," Waymo software engineer Nathaniel Fairfield, said in a company blog post. "All three are fast-changing cities with busy downtowns that host a ton of live events."
- "But there's also a uniquely Austin flavor—not just the pedicabs, or the bats and all the squirrels, but the pedestrian traffic on The Drag, navigating weekend traffic around Sixth Street, or the way the road layouts change between neighborhoods."
Between the lines: Per a 2017 state law supported by car companies, cities can't regulate self-driving cars.
- Self-driving company Cruise is currently operating in town and Ford previously deployed autonomous vehicles to Austin.
- Plus, there are all those self-driving delivery bots roving around town.
Thought bubble via Joann Muller, Axios' future-of-transportation reporter: "The fact that they’re testing in Austin is a strong sign that they will likely bring robotaxis to the city eventually."
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