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Self-Driving Car Service to Launch in Southern California

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Self-Driving Car Service to Launch in Southern California

A Waymo rider-only robotaxi is seen during a test ride in San Francisco on Dec. 9, 2022. (Paresh Dave/Reuters)

Carol Cassis

Carol Cassis

10/10/2023

Updated: 10/10/2023

Waymo, an autonomous ride-hail service, is launching some of its first self-driving cars in Santa Monica, California, on Oct. 11.
The service will operate similarly to Uber and Lyft, without the driver. Passengers hail the service on their Waymo One app, after which the car arrives with the passenger’s initials at the top of the car.
The fully electric vehicles are covered in cameras and sensors, and customers can unlock their doors directly from the app to begin their ride.
The San Francisco-based company–first launched under Google in 2009, though no longer affiliated with the tech giant–specializes in autonomous self-driving cars across the U.S.
They currently operate over 400 autonomous ride-hail cars in San Francisco and Phoenix, Arizona, while their October launch in Santa Monica will be the first in Southern California—but not for long.
“Angelenos should just start thinking about where they want to hail their first ride to,” Waymo spokesperson Sandy Karp told The Epoch Times. “It was pretty memorable for me, so I’m excited to hear where Angelenos go.”
Self-driving tech company Waymo tests a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan in Los Altos, California, on Nov. 19, 2017. (Dllu/Public domain)

Self-driving tech company Waymo tests a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan in Los Altos, California, on Nov. 19, 2017. (Dllu/Public domain)

The Santa Monica launch is part of a larger scaling effort by Waymo to expand their fleet across Los Angeles, with subsequent launches coming later this month through November to Century City, Venice, Brentwood, West Hollywood, Koreatown, and downtown Los Angeles.
There’s no word yet on how many autonomous driving vehicles will be in the area by the end of the launch.
Each vehicle is equipped with special technology that allows passengers to control everything in the vehicle, including music and temperature, as well as access to a map with an estimated drop-off time.
Each city launch will last two weeks after which the “pop-up” will move on to the next area on the Southern California tour.
According to the rideshare company, Waymo currently offers tens of thousands of rides per week across Phoenix and San Francisco.
The first event in the Los Angeles area will be Oct. 11, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Arizona Avenue and 3rd Street in Santa Monica. Rides, for now, are limited to tour stop locations, so those within Santa Monica, for example, will only be able to ride within the city limits.
The Waymo logo during the company's unveil of a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, on Jan. 8, 2017. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The Waymo logo during the company's unveil of a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, on Jan. 8, 2017. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

“As we prepare to launch in L.A., we are excited to open our doors to locals and visitors to experience the service we’ve been hard at work creating with Angelenos for Angelenos,” said the company in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times. “L.A. is a city with so many diverse people and neighborhoods, so we really wanted to use this tour as an opportunity to discover how our autonomous ride hailing service fits into their lives.”
Waymo has been operating its autonomous driving tech vehicles since 2016, beginning in Phoenix.
While some critics allege the new technology may pose a safety risk to passengers and others on the road, the company reports conducting rigorous safety testing for years.
According to Ms. Karp, the Waymo spokesperson, the company has tested its vehicles across more than 25 U.S. cities.
All rides are free for the initial tour in the next few weeks in Los Angeles, after which ride fare will depend on distance and traffic. Company reps say future costs will be “comparable” or “competitive” with driver-led rideshare companies like Uber or Lyft.
Carol Cassis

Carol Cassis

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California Insider
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