Autonomous Ride-Sharing Revolution: Robo-Taxis Now Operating on San Francisco Streets

by | Aug 23, 2023 | TECH | 0 comments

Waymo, the self-driving vehicle firm under Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has taken a courageous stride into the future by offering the general public the opportunity to book rides in their autonomous cars across the streets of San Francisco.


So what is it like? Once inside the vehicle, the passenger’s journey begins with a voice welcoming passengers to the driverless taxi. “Hello, (Your Name),” the voice says. It’s an experience that might feel straight out of science fiction, with passengers instructed not to touch the steering wheel or pedals during the journey. There are also enhanced features, such as touch screens offering music options for your enjoyment. Have a question during transit? Passenger questions can be answered through the Waymo app, which provides information about the safety and cleanliness of the vehicles that you’re riding in.


The Waymo app, Waymo One, mirrors the functionality of popular ride-hailing apps like Uber. Passengers can input their destinations and receive estimated wait times. Waymo’s fleet of high-tech vehicles, worth as much as $200,000 each, are dispatched accordingly. The wait times for rides range from five to 10 minutes, pretty standard. The rides are also priced similar to hailing an Uber, still, pretty standard.

San Francisco’s bustling and hilly streets have served as a testing ground for Waymo’s driverless cars for years. Despite objections from city officials regarding safety concerns, Waymo has moved forward with its plans. The company is finally at a point now where passengers can book rides in Waymo’s driverless cars, a milestone achievement. San Francisco is not the first area this type of robo taxi technology has gone live though. It’s reported that Waymo has been collecting fares in the Phoenix area for several years and successfully covering over 200 miles in that region.


The New York Times took the opportunity to dive into this futuristic experience, deploying three reporters across the city to test Waymo’s robot taxus. One reporter started in Alamo Square, while another began their ride at the Marina Green along the waterfront. The third reporter’s experience kicked off near the historic Mission Dolores Basilica. Their final destination: the Beach Chalet restaurant, located where Golden Gate Park meets the Pacific Ocean. While Waymo offers limited rides within downtown San Francisco, these test rides aimed to mimic the experiences of everyday tourists exploring the city in a driverless taxi, hitting all the “hot spots”.

The reporters stated that the experience initially felt confusing, but it was easy to quickly adapt to Waymo’s unique setup. The rides were smooth, and the vehicles showed precision, no humans needed. The Waymo taxis obey traffic rules, pause for pedestrians, and yield to emergency vehicles. The vehicles were also careful to avoid congestion when possible, and each taxi had its unique “character”. Some robo taxis embraced the urban hustle, while others provided a more relaxed journey at a leisure pace.

Would you get in the passenger seat?


Pssss! Sign up to receive our latest tech stories into your inbox!

Thank you for subscribing!