Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Autonomous vehicle company, Waymo, expected to roll out commercial ride-booking services in Austin later this year

Cassandra Ozuna

Another autonomous vehicle company will roll out its commercial ride-hailing services to the Austin community later this year. 

Last year, Waymo, an autonomous vehicle company subsidized by Google, announced Austin as its fourth ride-hailing city. Waymo started testing fully autonomous vehicles earlier this month, and Austin residents can join a waitlist right now if they are interested in riding in a Waymo vehicle. 

“Austin is really such a dynamic and vibrant city,” said Olivia Chang, Waymo’s technical program manager for expansion. “We really see that we can bring our technology to Austinites to make it really safe and easy for them to get to where they need to go.” 

Google first started Waymo as its self-driving car project in 2009. Chang said the longevity of the project sets it apart from other autonomous vehicle companies. Waymo now has over 20 million miles of real-world driving experience, according to their website. 

“What really sets us apart is the number of years and training experience and the amount of data and our focus on safety that we’ve come to accumulate throughout all these years,” Chang said. 

Since October 2023, Waymo has been testing software and expanding its understanding of Austin’s roads, Chang said. In the same month, another autonomous vehicle company, Cruise, put a nationwide pause on all their operations after investigations involving a report of pedestrian accidents in San Francisco. 

History sophomore Josie Lin utilized Cruise in Austin before the pause, and said she experienced navigational issues with the cars and wouldn’t use an autonomous vehicle again. 

“It’s a really delicate subject because you want it to work, but it’s not going to work unless you test it,” Lin said. “But people aren’t going to trust you testing it because they know it’s testing. It’s just a weird limbo.”

Transportation engineering professor Kara Kockelman said Waymo’s subsidization by Google provides the company more funding than Cruise to develop stronger software and address safety concerns. 

“It’s a very ethical company, and Cruise was too. These are started by people that care about the environment. They care about other humans,” Kockelman said. “They’re just trying to help us (drive) more safely.” 


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