Starting Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, Waymo will begin mapping a portion of Manhattan in New York City for a robotic taxi service using five of its autonomous Jaguar iPace vehicles. The area mapped is south of Central Park, and covers about half of that part of Manhattan. The mapping trips will be made by the vehicles, each with a safety driver and an engineer on board, according to Waymo.
With this, Waymo is moving inexorably forward to prepare and offer its robotaxi service in one city and region after another in the US. Two Waymo One robotaxi fleets are already in operation, in Phoenix, Arizona, since 2018, and in San Francisco since August 2021.
While Phoenix is characterized by flat streets in sunny weather, San Francisco by hilly terrain with lots of fog and occasional rain, New York City is much more complex. In the most densely populated city in the U.S., there is a wide range of weather conditions in addition to dense traffic of pedestrians and other vehicles. From sun, rain, to snow chaos in bitter cold, everything is present.
Another complicating factor is the hesitant, if not hostile, attitude of New York authorities and politicians toward autonomous driving. That’s why Waymo has been trying from the very beginning to convince the responsible authorities of the benefits of robotic taxi services and to issue the corresponding permits in talks and technology demonstrations. Currently, the city is marked by a hunger strike of cab drivers who are protesting against the excessive and, for them, ruinous price war for cab licenses (the so-called “medallions”) in view of the competition from transport service providers such as Uber and Lyft.
The Robot Report quoted a Waymo spokesperson on Waymo’s intentions:
“We don’t have any immediate plans to launch [a robotaxi service] in New York City. We’ve driven in dozens of cities to date but haven’t launched a commercial service in each one. We drive in these cities to help us train the Waymo Driver and we are able to apply those learnings broadly across our entire fleet.”
This article was also posted in German.