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Waymo is Testing its Self-Driving Minivans in San Francisco

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【Summary】After its Chysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with self-driving hardware were spotted on the streets of San Francisco, Waymo has confirmed that its fleet of self-driving vehicles are conducting testing in the city.

Original Eric Walz    Jan 12, 2018 4:26 PM PT
Waymo is Testing its Self-Driving Minivans in San Francisco
author: Eric Walz   

SAN FRANCISCO — After its Chysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with self-driving hardware were spotted on the streets of San Francisco, Waymo has confirmed that its fleet of self-driving vehicles are conducting testing in the city.

"San Francisco was one of the first cities where we tested our self-driving cars, dating back to 2009 when we traveled everything from Lombard Street to the Golden Gate Bridge. Now that we have the world's first fleet of fully self-driving cars running in Arizona, the hilly and foggy streets of San Francisco will give our cars even more practice in different terrains and environments." a Waymo spokesperson said in a statement to FutureCar.

Most recently, Waymo has been testing a self-driving pilot program near Phoenix, Arizona, where members of the public can summon one of its Chrysler Pacifica self-driving minivans to run errands or get around town, free of charge. Other Waymo test cities include Mountain View, CA; Austin, TX; and Kirkland, WA.

In December of 2016, Uber launched its own self-driving tests in San Francisco. However, the company was met with resistance from state regulators for refusing to secure the necessary self-driving test permit required in California to test autonomous vehicles on public roads.

The conflict escalated just days later, when one of Uber's self-driving Volvos was filmed running a red light in the busy downtown area. As a result, the California DMV revoked the registrations of Uber's fleet. Uber has since moved its San Francisco autonomous testing operations to the Phoenix area.

Waymo is joining San Francisco based startup Cruise Automation on the hilly streets. Cruise is testing a fleet of self-driving Chevy Bolts in the city in a partnership with General Motors. In March of 2016, GM announced that it was purchasing Cruise for $1 billion to jumpstart its autonomous driving efforts. GM and Cruise are conducting testing for a future autonomous ride-sharing service.

The San Francisco bay area is becoming a popular test region for autonomous technology, due to its proximity to Silicon Valley. Waymo is joining 48 other companies that have been granted the permit to test autonomous cars in California. Included in the list are Tesla, BMW, Ford, Mercedes Benz, and NVIDIA. Uber Rival Lyft was granted a permit to test autonomous vehicles in November.

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