Waymo Begins Offering Autonomous Car Rides in San Francisco

Autonomous vehicles are the latest tech crave. Automakers are in a race to see who can be the first to develop one and get it on the road. But they still need to work out a lot of kinks, as evidenced by some serious and even fatal wrecks. Even so, one company in San Francisco, Waymo, has proven that autonomous vehicles can work and is offering free rides.

Autonomous vehicles are getting plenty of attention

A Waymo self-driving car, a Jaguar I-Pace, drives in traffic in San Francisco, California, in nJune 2021
A Waymo self-driving car in San Francisco | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Just a few short years ago, the idea of a vehicle that could drive itself was the stuff of science fiction. It now appears this could be a reality. Automakers are throwing more money toward making such cars, and rumor has it that Apple might be ready to dip into a new industry to get in on the action.

We haven’t reached the point where vehicles can drive themselves. A human driver needs to be behind the wheel to take over in case something goes wrong. They also need to keep their eyes on the road. It’s not like you can read a book or play a game on your phone. 

Even so, the ability to sit back and relax may be very appealing to some. Though there are still lots of people who enjoy driving and being in control of a vehicle, others find it a pleasure to let the car do all the work. And if you live in San Francisco, you might be one of the first to experience this.

Ride with the self-driving car company Waymo

At the moment, Waymo is a small, little-known company. That might be about to change. For one, The Verge reports Waymo is a sibling company of Google. Second, it already has autonomous vehicles on the streets of San Francisco.

As of now, passengers who choose to ride in a Waymo autonomous vehicle must sign a nondisclosure agreement before they go for a spin. There will also be a safety driver behind the wheel who can take over in case something goes wrong.

It’s important to note that Waymo is still in the testing phase. If you’re interested, you can apply through the Waymo One smartphone app. You’ll be treated to a free ride in a Jaguar I-Pace SUV, although you can’t share your experience with anyone outside of Waymo.

With that being said, Waymo has had vehicles driving in Phoenix, Arizona, for over a year, and there are no longer human safety drivers behind the wheel. This is a huge step in the right direction, and there are plenty of other companies desperate to catch up and prove they can outshine Waymo.

What other self-driving cars are making headway?

The competition couldn’t be fiercer to create fully autonomous vehicles, and some big names have created smaller companies to jump on board. General Motors has joined the competition with a company called Cruise. And Ford and Volkswagen have teamed up under Argo AI. 

But the best-known name in this game is Tesla. It’s been focused on designing autonomous vehicles for quite some time and is even hiding some of the vehicle controls in preparation for it.

However, it appears these companies are facing some major competition from a most unusual source. Honda has entered the ring, and it’s making a lot of headway. This shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise, as Honda designs and manufactures everything from motorcycles to jets to the robots that work on the automaker’s assembly lines.

So, who will win this race? Only time will reveal the answer.

RELATED: Elon Musk Says Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Feature Is ‘Actually Not Great’