Another indication that the Alphabet subsidiary is quickening its commercial build up is the announcement by Waymo that it intends to introduce a robotaxi service in Los Angeles.
Since 2019, Waymo has occasionally visited Los Angeles to map neighborhoods like downtown, Miracle Mile, Koreatown, Santa Monica, Westwood, and West Hollywood.
The announcement made on Wednesday clearly has a greater commercial focus. Saswat Panigrahi, who most recently served as vice president of strategy, product management, and data science, has been appointed as Waymo’s new chief product officer. He claims that initially, more than a dozen Waymo autonomous vehicles will be in Los Angeles and that they will expand from there.
He continued by saying that the intention is for this to be a driverless robotaxi service that runs around-the-clock. Waymo is collaborating with regional organizations MADD California and Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition in the lead-up to its eventual launch.
“When we think about our next cities, Los Angeles jumps out,” said Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana.
The largest market that Waymo has ever tried to enter is Los Angeles. The huge city, which has 13 million citizens, is the third-largest ride-hailing market in the United States, with a $2 billion opportunity predicted by Waymo for 2022.
Waymo still needs to clear several regulatory hurdles before achieving that objective.
The testing and ultimate use of autonomous vehicles are governed by two regulatory organizations- the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Testing of autonomous vehicles—both with and without safety operators—is governed by the California DMV. If businesses wish to test AVs without a human driver at the wheel, they must obtain a driverless testing permit. A deployment permission is the DMW’s last stage.
There are “drivered” and “driverless” permits available from the CPUC that allows businesses to provide rides in their self-driving cars. Any business that plans to use robotaxis to transport people and eventually charge for rides must obtain all necessary approvals from the CPUC and DMV.
Every necessary authorization from the DMV has been obtained by Waymo, and the CPUC has granted permission for the company to charge for robotaxi service, but only when a human safety operator is present. The business is running and expanding in Arizona as it waits for the last approvals in California.
In Chandler and other Phoenix suburbs, Waymo runs a commercial ride-hailing service without a driver. The business just included downtown Phoenix to its autonomous program expansion.