Waymo driverless cars being tested in SoCal for ride-hailing service. Are they safe?

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Saturday, December 10, 2022
Driverless cars being tested for ride-hailing in Socal. Are they safe?
Autonomous vehicle company Waymo is now testing its driverless cars in SoCal as a ride-hailing service. But just how safe are they, and will people feel comfortable getting into a car with no one at the wheel?

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- You might see unusual vehicles driving around the streets of Santa Monica and wonder, what is that? They are being tested by a company called Waymo, which plans to bring self-driving vehicles to our area as a ride-hailing service.

"We want to be that ride-sharing partner, whether to take you to the airport, entertainment trips, working or commuting," said Aman Nalavade of Waymo.

The service is already running in San Francisco and Phoenix. You request a vehicle like any other ride-hailing service using an app on your phone. But there is no driver.

"The driverless car shows up, so there's no one in the front seat. They get in the car, and they hit 'start ride.' The car opens based off the phone's Bluetooth, and then the car goes off and takes you from point A to point B," Nalavade said.

Experts believe this is the future.

"They are going to be vastly safer, they already are, but they are going to continue to be vastly safer than human driven vehicles are," said Jeffrey Miller, a professor of engineering at USC.

The question is: Will people feel comfortable getting in a vehicle with no one at the wheel? Experts say it will take time as people see other driverless vehicles on the road.

"I think if we look at this as delivering packages, or trucking companies who are able to utilize this, I think this is going to be the way that the public will become more accepting of the technology," Miller said.

Waymo says part of its mission is to provide service to some communities they feel are underserved.

"You can also think about things like visually impaired, disabled, elderly folks. There's a whole slew of customer segments that really could benefit from this technology," Nalavade said.

Waymo did not give a timeline for when the service will be operating in Los Angeles, but the testing will go on for months.