Waymo is bringing its fleet to New York City, the company announced Wednesday. It will start out with five hybrid Chrysler Pacificas, manually driven in order to map out New York's streets.
Waymo acknowledged the chaotic, often hellish conditions of driving in New York City in its announcement. In fact, those conditions seem to be exactly why the Alphabet subsidiary wants to be in the city. Safety is the biggest concern with self-driving vehicles, with regulators pushing against a self-driving "Wild West." The company cited New York's "bustling avenues" and "unusual road geometries" as the perfect test for Waymo's autonomous driving system, which Waymo says is built to handle complex city driving. It also noted New York's heavy rain and snowfall as a way to test how the car's sensors perform in those conditions.
In October 2020, the company opened its robo-taxis for anyone to use in Phoenix, where it had been testing its cars since 2017. It's also been present in San Francisco for a while, where it started driving in 2009. In August, it allowed San Franciscans to hail robo-taxi rides as well. A number of self-driving startups are looking to these more complex, difficult cities as ways to test how ready their vehicles really are to hit the road. If you can drive in New York and San Francisco, you can pretty much drive anywhere.
Waymo says it's been working with New York's policymakers and regulators, including newly-elected Mayor Eric Adams. Its drivers will start out in midtown and lower Manhattan, eventually extending to a small part of New Jersey outside the Lincoln Tunnel. Maybe the Waymo cars will find a random New York City block to call home like they did in San Francisco.