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Now anyone in San Francisco can hail a Waymo robotaxi

A Waymo robotaxi in San Francisco
Sunni Khalid
/
KALW
A Waymo robotaxi in San Francisco

Waymo’s robotaxis are a common sight on the streets of San Francisco, with their spinning roof sensors and, of course, the absence of a driver. The company says it has been gradually scaling up its service in the city for years. Now, Waymo says, anyone can download the Waymo One app and hail one of its taxis: 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week.

Waymo, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc — the parent company of Google — operates about 300 taxis in San Francisco. Before the announcement, the company said nearly 300,000 people were on the waitlist.

Demand for Waymo’s autonomous taxi service has steadily increased since last year. Its robotaxis already ferry tens of thousands of passengers around the city each week. Neighborhoods, such as Hayes Valley, South of Market, and Mission Bay, have seen significant demand for the company’s vehicles.

In August 2023, California regulators gave Waymo and Cruise — an autonomous vehicle company owned by General Motors — approval to charge for rides in San Francisco. Two months later, the California DMV suspended Cruise’s service, after it allegedly withheld footage from a severe crash involving a pedestrian.

Waymo has vigorously touted the safety benefits of robotaxis. But, it is also currently under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for two nearly dozen incidents, where its robotaxis either crashed or made traffic violations.

The California Public Utilities Commission recently granted Waymo approval to expand its operations to San Francisco freeways and to the Peninsula, where the company is testing in those areas.

I'm thrilled to be a participant in the KALW News Summer Journalism Program. I have a passion for work that is public service-oriented and helps foster information literacy—a fascination that first developed while I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Central Asia.