Waymo announced a “tour across Los Angeles” that allows curious residents the opportunity to ride in fully autonomous vehicles as the Alphabet-owned company begins to lay the groundwork for the launch of a commercial robotaxi service.
Waymo says it will make six multi-week “tour stops” in LA neighborhoods where people can hail a self-driving car without anyone in the front seat. Interested Angelenos can snag early access tickets at several pop-up events throughout the city or sign up for a waitlist. Once they receive a ticket, riders can use Waymo’s fully driverless vehicles for free within the service area for one week during the allotted time.
The tour is as follows: Santa Monica and Venice Beach October 11th–November 18th; Century City November 20th–December 17th; West Hollywood December 17th–January 7th; Mid City January 8th–23rd; Koreatown January 24th–February 8th; and Downtown LA February 9th–March 3rd.
Waymo’s operational design domain — the area in which its robotaxis are programmed to travel — stretches from the West Side to Downtown LA, an area that’s larger than San Francisco but smaller than its coverage in Phoenix.
This is the first time Waymo is deploying a “tour” model as a precursor to a commercial service. Waymo says it plans to “partner with local businesses and community organizers” at each stop as it seeks to make a good impression among the locals. Robotaxi companies in San Francisco have been facing pushback from city officials who oppose their expansion, citing blocked intersections and obstructed emergency vehicles.
Waymo has had a small fleet of vehicles mapping the streets of LA since at least 2019, but it only began to make preparations for a commercial service in recent months. Aside from mapping, Waymo has been following its traditional playbook of deploying its vehicles in autonomous mode with a human safety driver behind the wheel before transitioning into a commercially available service.
This is the first time Waymo is deploying a “tour” model as a precursor to a commercial service
For Waymo, LA represents its biggest and possibly most challenging market to date: a metropolitan area of 13 million people with crisscrossing freeway ramps, narrow surface streets, many unprotected left turns, blinding sunsets down its east-west roads, and a plethora of distracted drivers. As a market, LA also represents potentially $2 billion in revenue, the company has previously estimated.
Waymo is locked in a tight race with Cruise and other AV companies to get more robot cars on the street so it can start seeing a return on its enormous investment. The company has revenue coming in from its two ridehailing markets, but it hasn’t raised any external financing since a $2.5 billion round in June 2021.