Waymo is starting driverless taxi tests in Los Angeles

The autonomous cars aren't ready for LA rush hour, though.

A Waymo Jaguar I-Pace SUV is seen driving on a road in San Francisco, California, U.S. on August 20, 2021. Picture taken August 20, 2021. REUTERS/Nathan Frandino (Nathan Frandino / reuters)

Late last year, Waymo secured a Driverless Pilot permit from the state of California, bringing the alphabet-owned brand one step closer to launching its autonomous taxi service in the state. Now, Waymo is already expanding its service area, announcing plans to begin testing driverless cars in Los Angeles. The company tells Engadget that the test will mark the first time that fully autonomous cars will roam the streets of LA, and that thanks to successful tests in San Francisco, its been able to roll out autonomous drivers in new cities with "little-to-no on-board engineering work."

That doesn't mean the company is ready to launch its Waymo One taxi service in California, however. The LA test will likely follow the same course as Waymo's fleet in San Francisco: a limited number of vehicles only available to riders in the Waymo Research Trusted Tester program. Waymo didn't have any details to share regarding when the full driverless taxi service will be available to customers in Los Angeles, but it probably hinges on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issuing the firm a Driverless Deployment permit. Until it can clear that final legal hurdle, Waymo's paid taxi service will remain exclusive to Phoenix AZ. So far, GM's Cruise robotaxi service is the only company permitted to charge for driverless rides in the state, so long as those rides take place during daylight hours.

Waymo didn't give any specific dates for when the test will begin, but noted that its 5th-generation Jaguar I-Pace cars will start rider-only testing in Santa Monica, and only outside of rush-hour. Then, the program will expand in accordance with Waymo's safety framework before eventually launching to consumers. Oh, and in case you were worried that the cars might make LA traffic even worse, the company promises that its continuously updating its self-driving software to avoid stalling traffic, as one stopped Waymo vehicle recently did in San Francisco.