Jan 8, 2024 - News

Waymo to start testing robotaxis on Valley freeways

A side by side of two maps showing distance using freeways and surface streets.

Courtesy of Waymo

Waymo will start testing its autonomous vehicles on Valley freeways in the coming weeks, the company announced Monday.

Why it matters: Waymo currently operates its ride hailing service across 225 square miles in metro Phoenix, but its cars use only surface streets. Adding freeways can cut down drive times by 50%, per the company.

What's happening: For more than a year, Waymo's Jaguar I-PACE vehicles have driven autonomously on freeways including Loop 101 and Loop 202, spokesperson Sandy Karp told Axios. A safety specialist sits behind the wheel.

  • Later this month, Waymo employees will be able to drive on the freeway in "rider-only" mode. The program will start outside of rush-hour periods and ramp up to 24-hour service.
  • This "incremental approach" is similar to how the company tested and launched its current ride-hailing service service, Karp said.

💭 Our thought bubble: One of the biggest drawbacks to calling a Waymo instead of an Uber or Lyft is the extra time it takes to maneuver across town without driving on freeways. Adding freeway service could encourage more people to switch to autonomous ride sharing.

ICYMI: A day in a Waymo driverless car

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