Waymo robotaxi service opens to Los Angeles riders

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Waymo robotaxi in San Francisco.

Waymo now deploys fully driverless robotaxis in Phoenix, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. | Source: Waymo

Less than two weeks after receiving approval to expand to Los Angeles, Waymo today opened its driverless robotaxi service to select members of the public in LA. Waymo also said it will roll out a fully driverless robotaxi service in Austin, Texas later in 2024.

In LA, Waymo said it is now offering rides 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a 63-square-mile area from Santa Monica to Downtown LA. Waymo plans to scale the area over time, a similar approach it’s taken in both Phoenix and San Francisco. The rides in LA will initially be free, but it said it will transition to paid rides in the coming weeks. The company said there will be 50 robotaxis in the LA fleet.

Waymo has been testing its Level 4 autonomous ride-hailing service in LA since late 2022. The company said there are 50,000-plus people on its LA waitlist. It pointed out this marks the first time a fully driverless robotaxi service has ever operated in LA.

“Once an unimaginable future, autonomous driving is now a real-world way of getting around for tens of thousands of people each week,” said Tekedra Mawakana, co-CEO, Waymo. “After achieving key milestones in each city, we’re so excited to bring the safety, comfort and delight of our Waymo One service to more people in Los Angeles and Austin this year.”

The expansion into LA, the second-most populated city in the U.S., comes seven months after Waymo was approved to charge for rides 24/7 in San Francisco. Its fully driverless robotaxis have been operating in San Francisco since 2022. The Robot Report has taken multiple rides around San Francisco in Waymo robotaxis, and the experience was flawless each time.

There are some in LA who aren’t happy that Waymo is being allowed to operate in their city. There have been lawsuits and protests, and some labor leaders worry about issues with jobs and how the robotaxis will affect emergency vehicles.

“It’s clear that this technology is not ready to be introduced into our roads and our cities,” said Yvonne Wheeler, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. “Autonomous vehicles have been wreaking havoc wherever they go. From blocking fire trucks to crashing into buses, running over animals.”

To be fair, most of the troubles Wheeler is referring to were caused by robotaxis from Cruise, which up until late last year was Waymo’s top competitor in the U.S. Cruise has paused all operations after enduring a tumultuous few months. Waymo has had a couple notable incidents in SF, including hitting and killing a dog and hitting a bicyclist, who was able to leave the scene on their own.

Waymo lone bright spot in robotaxis

Waymo continues to really be the only bright spot when it comes to fully driverless robotaxis in the U.S. If it happens, Austin would be the fourth city in which it operates its Waymo One service. Motional continues to operate its robotaxi services with human safety drivers on board in a couple of cities. Several other companies are testing in California, but they aren’t close to launching a public service.

Waymo’s robotaxis have been charging for rides in Phoenix since 2020. Phoenix is the company’s largest operating area at 225 square miles. Waymo’s operating area in San Francisco is about 47 square miles. LA is the third city.

Waymo is currently testing fully autonomous rides across 43 square miles of Austin, encompassing the heart of downtown, Barton Hills, Riverside, East Austin, Hyde Park and more. At press time, these rides are reserved for its employees only.

If you want to sign up and get on the waitlist for the LA or Austin service, you need to download the Waymo One app.

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