Waymo posted on their blog today that they’ll be opening a self-driving service in Los Angeles.
We’ve gotten to know many LA neighborhoods, including Downtown and Miracle Mile, Koreatown, Santa Monica, Westwood and West Hollywood, and we’ll begin driving autonomously in several central districts over the coming months as we prepare to serve Angelenos.
The language hedges somewhat — “begin driving autonomously…over the coming months” leaves a lot of ambiguity about how far along this is and to what extent the rides will be monitored by safety operators, versus fully driverless.
The blog post leans in pretty heavily to the continued uniqueness of Waymo’s Phoenix operation:
Waymo remains the only company operating a fully autonomous, commercial ride-hailing service for passengers round the clock in Phoenix’s East Valley — no NDAs, remote operators or pre-defined pick-ups. We’re the first and only company in the world providing autonomous ride-hail trips to and from an airport (Phoenix’s Sky Harbor), and we drive more fully autonomous miles in the U.S. than any other company.
That distinction in Phoenix is huge. Allowing anyone who wants to show up, download an app, and hail the service is a big step up from a limited test audience.
So far, that progress in Phoenix does not seem to have totally translated to San Francisco. In SF, Waymo still seems to be trailing behind Cruise, in terms of number of riders on the service and how ready the company is to go fully driverless. Although data is hard to come by, as both Waymo and Cruise are private companies running limited service in San Francisco.
How well the Phoenix operation translates to Los Angeles remains to be seen.