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When Google spun off its self-driving car project in 2016 as a separate company called Waymo, the auto world took notice. Since then, Waymo has led the pack of autonomous vehicle developers, setting the stage for what could be a massive transformation in personal mobility. The company was among the first to deploy fully driverless cars, and it has its sights set on ride-hailing and freight hauling as its commercial pursuits. Waymo’s position at the top of the technological hierarchy will tell us whether self-driving cars are truly transformative or just a passing fad.

TFW your Uber driver is an empty seat.

Starting today, Phoenix residents can use the Uber app to hail a ride in a driverless Waymo vehicle. The two companies — former rivals turned frenemies (?) — first announced the partnership earlier this year. Tellingly, it’s only available in Arizona, and not California, where tensions around robotaxis are starting to get, well, tense.

Screenshot of the Uber app on an iPhone prompting a rider to accept a ride with a Waymo-operated autonomous vehicle.
Image: Waymo
Are traffic jam-prone robotaxis coming to your city?

California has green-lit 24/7 service expansion of the vehicles in San Francisco, enabling Waymo and Cruise the freedom to operate during daytime hours. Robotaxis are the subject of traffic jam chaos, and one was involved in a crash with an emergency vehicle last week. And they’re expanding to more cities.

The latest episode of Vox’s Today, Explained podcast has Sean Rameswaram hosting Liz Lindqwister, a data journalist for the San Francisco Standard who’s documenting robotaxi expansion — while also using them.

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Robot kills dog.

Well that’s a terrible headline! An autonomous Waymo vehicle struck and killed a small dog in San Francisco last month, according to an incident report spotted by TechCrunch. Waymo says the accident was unavoidable, and of course over a million pets are mowed down by human drivers every year. Still, this incident will be an interesting test of my theory about AVs, which is that while we have an extremely high tolerance for death caused by human drivers, we have an extremely low tolerance for robot-caused deaths. My guess is that extends to furry friends too.