“Waymo Unveils Autonomous Rides for Staff in Austin”

Waymo will start letting its autonomous vehicles traverse Austin without a safety operator behind the wheel as of tomorrow, a crucial step before the company opens the program up to the public. The company announced Tuesday that it will begin shuttling employees around 43 square miles of the Texas capital, including the Barton Hills, Riverside, East Austin and Hyde Park neighborhoods, as well as downtown Austin. Waymo didn’t offer a timeline for when it plans to start offering autonomous rides to the citizens of Austin. Waymo continues to steadily expand its autonomous ride-hailing program, which it calls Waymo One, even as other companies in the space have struggled. Just last month, one of the company’s autonomous vehicles collided with a cyclist in San Francisco — an incident that the California Department of Motor Vehicles is investigating.

Waymo is paving the way for its autonomous vehicles to roam the streets of Austin without a safety operator behind the wheel starting tomorrow. This marks a crucial milestone for the company as it prepares to open up the program to the general public.

On Tuesday, Waymo announced that its self-driving cars will begin transporting employees around 43 square miles of Austin, covering popular neighborhoods such as Barton Hills, Riverside, East Austin, Hyde Park, and the bustling downtown area.

This progress follows closely on the heels of Waymo’s recent approval to offer rides for a fee in expanded areas of both Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. While the company has not specified a timeline for opening the program to the public in Austin, it will be the fourth city where Waymo’s autonomous vehicles will be officially in operation, joining LA, SF, and Phoenix.

As other companies in the autonomous vehicle industry have faced challenges, Waymo has continued to steadily expand its ride-hailing program, known as Waymo One. For example, GM-owned Cruise has come under investigation from various state and federal agencies for its handling of an October pedestrian collision. Meanwhile, Ford-backed Argo AI has ceased operations, and several prominent Chinese autonomous vehicle startups have slowed or stopped their testing in the United States.

However, Waymo has faced its own setbacks. Just last month, one of the company’s self-driving cars was involved in a collision with a cyclist in San Francisco, prompting an investigation by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Additionally, Waymo recently issued a recall of its autonomous software after two vehicles in the Phoenix area crashed into the same towed truck in late 2020.

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Kira Kim

Kira Kim is a science journalist with a background in biology and a passion for environmental issues. She is known for her clear and concise writing, as well as her ability to bring complex scientific concepts to life for a general audience.

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