Waymo has given hundreds of people robotaxi rides since its test rollout in San Francisco in August, with tens of thousands more residents on a waitlist, the Alphabet Inc company’s co-chief executive said at the Reuters Next conference.
Waymo is among a small number of companies around the world that have billions of dollars in financing to develop self-driving cars and trucks.
But progress toward wide-scale service has been slow. San Francisco, a city of nearly 900,000 people, is just the second test site for passenger service for Waymo, founded in 2009.
“We are building a business. So we’re really focused on how to commercialize this technology,” Co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana said, adding that it is looking into how to tap the markets for ride hailing, trucking, local delivery and then eventually for personal car ownership.
Waymo in August started giving autonomous rides, which are free of charge, to a limited number of people in San Francisco with safety drivers using its Jaguar electric vehicles.
Waymo has deliberately selected diverse testers, Mawakana said, to ensure feedback is representative of the broader population. For instance, half of its San Francisco riders are women.
“In San Francisco, we were very focused on making sure that there was gender diversity because safety and transportation is such an issue. Not only safety on the roads, but also physical safety,” she said.
The company also has been offering paid rides in driverless minivans outside of Phoenix since Oct. 2020 and hauling freight using autonomous semi-trucks in Texas for several months.
In September, Waymo and rival Cruise, backed by General Motors Co received one of the two regulatory permits to offer autonomous rides to passengers in California.
Early next year, Waymo will deliver groceries ordered from one of the Safeway stores in San Francisco to select Waymo and Safeway employees.