Waymo's robotaxi service starting free rides in parts of Los Angeles

Waymo will launch its driverless ride-hailing service in Los Angeles on Thursday, providing free rides to some of the 50,000 people who have signed up.

Waymo is now venturing into Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S., following California regulators’ approval for its robotaxis to offer rides 24/7 in San Francisco. Despite objections from local officials, who claimed that the driverless vehicles posed risks to public safety, that decision was made.

Even though Waymo is not currently charging for rides in its robotaxis in Los Angeles, the company mentioned in a blog post that it will eventually start collecting fares from passengers. Waymo plans to launch commercial operations in Austin, Texas, later this year, expanding its robotaxi service to four major U.S. cities, 15 years after starting as a secret project at Google. Waymo’s robotaxis have been offering rides for a fee in Phoenix since 2020.

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Currently, Waymo’s complimentary rides in Los Angeles will include a 63-square-mile (101-square-kilometer) region from Santa Monica to downtown. Waymo is starting operations in Los Angeles shortly after receiving approval from the California Public Utilities Commission. The decision disregarded the worries of city transportation officials regarding potential issues with robotaxis and driverless vehicles.

In San Francisco last October, a pedestrian was hit by a vehicle operated by Cruise, a driverless ride-hailing service owned by General Motors. The pedestrian was dragged for 20 feet (6 meters) at a speed of roughly 7 mph (11 kph) before the vehicle came to a stop. The incident led to California regulators suspending Cruise’s state license and causing a significant reorganization at that service.

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