Future of Travel

Waymo, Zoox expand autonomous ride-hailing operations despite recent AV setbacks

Waymo announced that it’s now offering autonomous ride-hailing services across 315 square miles of Metro Phoenix.
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· 3 min read

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The last several months have brought negative headlines galore about robotaxis.

Scrutiny of autonomous ride-hailing operations kicked into high gear after a Cruise vehicle seriously injured a pedestrian in San Francisco in October. Cruise, the self-driving vehicle startup that’s majority-owned by GM, lost its operating permits in California and halted operations nationwide for months.

Now, as the New York Times detailed, Cruise is gradually getting back on the road. It’s testing services in Phoenix with safety operators on board, and an exec told the Times that the company wants to offer driverless ride-hailing in one city by year’s end.

Meanwhile, Cruise’s competitors—which have faced setbacks and scrutiny of their own in recent months—continue to take incremental steps forward, including with expansions announced by Alphabet-backed Waymo and Amazon-owned Zoox last week.

Zoox—which is already in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Seattle—announced the start of operations in two new markets: Austin and Miami.

“This latest expansion—to a new coast, and two new states—marks a significant leap forward,” the company said in a blog post.

The new operations will kick off with “a brief mapping mission,” during which test fleets will deploy “in small areas near the business and entertainment districts of the two cities” with safety drivers, per the company.

Zoox doesn’t have any immediate plans to open rides to the public in either city, but explained that it selected the locations for testing based on the “unique opportunities and valuable challenges” they present.

“We’re laying the foundations for our autonomous ride-hailing service in new cities across the US,” Ron Thaniel, Zoox’s senior director of policy and regulatory affairs, said in the blog post. “Austin and Miami offer key learning opportunities that will support the continued growth and refinement of our testing and service.”

Meanwhile, Waymo revealed that it expanded its ride-hailing service area in Metro Phoenix by 90 square miles, bringing its total service area to 315 square miles (Waymo also operates in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and is testing in Austin). The expanded area will extend farther into North Phoenix, Scottsdale, and downtown Mesa, and operate on tribal land, in agreement with the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community, which Waymo claims is an industry first.

“It’s a privilege to continue serving Phoenicians and visitors alike, and our team is excited to offer access to even more popular destinations across The Valley,” Waymo Chief Product Officer Saswat Panigrahi said.

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.