Waymo is ready to offer rides to the public in self-driving Jaguar I-Pace electric cars, the company announced Tuesday in a blog post.
The vehicles will operate in San Francisco as part of what Waymo calls its Trusted Tester program. Riders will be able to hail an I-Pace using the Waymo One app and will be asked share feedback about the experience, the company said. Waymo also confirmed that an "autonomous specialist" will be onboard for each ride.
Waymo has been testing vehicles on public roads in the San Francisco Bay Area for 12 years, and began offering rides to employees in the area earlier this year, but this is the first time the general public will be able to ride Waymo self-driving cars in the city.
Waymo Jaguar I-Pace
So while San Francisco was one of Waymo's original testing grounds, it's a bit behind the Phoenix metropolitan area in commercialization of autonomous ride-hailing. Waymo began offering rides to Phoenix residents in 2017.
Waymo started with Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, but the I-Pace joined the fleet in 2018. It marks the return of all-electric vehicles to the fleet following the retirement of Waymo's custom-designed EVs, which were eliminated to make way for the Pacificas.
Recent studies indicate Americans don't have a lot of confidence in self-driving cars, and don't care much about the branding of autonomous vehicles, but that hasn't stopped Waymo and other companies from trying to commercialize the technology.
Waymo Jaguar I-Pace
General Motors-owned Cruise has said it plans to start accepting passengers soon. The startup-turned-GM division has used Chevrolet Bolt EV hatchbacks for testing, but plans to field a purpose-built EV called the Origin, which will use GM's Ultium modular battery system and will be built at the automaker's Factory Zero in Detroit.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stoked the company's stock price by saying that the value of the company's vehicles will increase in the future—by activating them as fleets of self-driving robo-taxis. However, it's unclear if Tesla will be able to deliver on this promise.