The Fuse

This Week in AVs: Driverless Waymo Rides Coming to Phoenix; Uber and Waymo Map Dallas and LA; and More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | October 11, 2019

Waymo Tells Customers “Completely Driverless” Cars Are Coming
In an email to customers that use its ride-hailing app in Phoenix, Waymo told riders that “Completely driverless Waymo cars are on the way.” Subsequently posted on Reddit, the email adds that customers may soon experience “one of these driverless rides” as the company continues to develop and refine its AV technology. Per the email sent to members of Waymo’s early rider program, no driver will be in the car for users who are matched with a driverless vehicle and passengers will be notified ahead of the vehicle’s arrival that it will be fully driverless, although help and assistance will be available either through the app or the car’s help button. “Rest assured, Waymo will still be taking care of you,” the email adds. Although the announcement is not clear on the scope of driverless operation (e.g. how many and if they will be limited to specific routes or geofenced areas), this milestone would be notable as the first commercial, publicly available robotaxi service open to members of the public.

Waymo and Uber Map Streets for Their AV Fleets
In order to create more effective maps for their driverless services, Waymo and Uber have both begun mapping city streets for themselves. Waymo has announced it will be bringing its AVs to Los Angeles to begin operations there – the first time Los Angeles has had AVs on its streets. Once Waymo has a detailed 3D mapping of the areas it is focusing on in Los Angeles—particularly downtown and Miracle Mile—it could launch autonomous services in the city, although it stated it had no plans to do so at present. Uber plans to gradually introduce rides in AVs once it completes its mapping in Dallas. The company will begin surveying the streets of Dallas in November, and told a recent town hall meeting in the city that it plans to launch its cars in Dallas perhaps as early as 2020, with humans still on board for backup.

Tech-Savvy Silicon Valley Residents Don’t Want AV Testing in Their Neighborhoods
Residents of Silicon Valley have voiced concerns over their neighborhoods being used as the proving grounds for self-driving cars—not because they are unfamiliar with the technology, the Washington Post reports, but because they are aware of the flaws found in nascent technology. Although the article states that many residents and communities are proponents of AVs on their streets, others are more skeptical of the near-term performance of AVs. “I’m not skeptical long-term,” one interviewee told the Post, “I don’t want to be the guinea pig.” The experience of AVs in Silicon Valley – often on the leading edge of technological adoption – will help inform public education efforts elsewhere.