Waymo begins driverless taxi tests in Los Angeles

Late last year, Waymo obtained a Driverless Pilot permit from the state of California, bringing the Alphabet-owned brand one step closer to launching an autonomous taxi service in the state. Now, Waymo has expanded its service area, announcing plans to begin testing driverless cars in Los Angeles. The company told Engadget that the test will mark the first time that fully autonomous cars will roam the streets of LA, and thanks to the successful tests in San Francisco, it was able to launch autonomous drivers in the bag -one town with “little-to-no on-board engineering work.”

That doesn’t mean the company is ready to launch its Waymo One taxi service in California, however. The test in LA will likely follow the same course as Waymo’s fleet in San Francisco: a limited number of vehicles available only to riders in the Waymo Research Trusted Tester program. Waymo has no details to share about when the full driverless taxi service will be available to customers in Los Angeles, but it likely depends on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issuing the company a Driverless Deployment permit. Until the final legal hurdle is cleared, Waymo’s paid taxi service will remain exclusive to Phoenix AZ. Until now, GM’s Cruise robotaxi service was the only company allowed to charge for driverless rides in the state, as long as the rides took place during daylight hours.

Waymo hasn’t given any specific dates for when testing will begin, but it does know that the 5th generation Jaguar I-Pace cars will begin rider-only testing in Santa Monica, and outside in rush hour. Then, the program will expand in line with Waymo’s safety framework before rolling out to consumers. Oh, and if you’re worried that the cars might make LA traffic worse, the company promises to continuously update its self-driving software to avoid traffic jams, like the one that stops at Waymo car was recently created in San Francisco.

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