Uber’s partnership with Waymo, a driverless taxi service, began Wednesday to provide autonomous ride options for customers in Phoenix. Riders who book an UberX, Uber Green, Uber Comfort, or Uber Comfort Electric could be paired with an autonomous Waymo vehicle.
The Waymo ride option is currently available in Metro Phoenix and will only match a rider with a driverless vehicle if the route is part of Waymo’s operating territory. Riders who are dubious about getting in a Waymo vehicle will have the option to opt-out before the robotaxi is sent and instead send them with a human driver.
Uber said in a news release by partnering with Waymo, it is working toward cutting gas and emissions per passenger and “make greener transportation options more accessible.”
Waymo’s collaboration with Uber comes as it began a test run of its driverless taxis in South California earlier this month. The company gave residents and visitors early access tickets to take advantage of the fully autonomous Waymo One rides before the full launch.
Unions held a rally outside Google’s headquarters in LA on Tuesday, protesting against Waymo’s autonomous rideshare expansion.
“We’re saying hell no to driverless vehicles on our streets,” said Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Yvonne Wheeler told ABC7 News. “Autonomous vehicles, like the ones that Waymo wants to unleash in our communities, have been wreaking havoc wherever they go. … It’s clear this technology is not ready to be introduced into our roads and our city.”
A Waymo spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Gizmodo that the company disagrees with the concerns and is working with policymakers, first responders, and transportation agencies to ensure the robotaxi is a safe option for Angelenos.
“Our goal is to introduce a ride-hailing service that improves road safety and supports the region’s transportation, equity, and sustainability goals. Based on many productive conversations we’ve had with city leaders, we’re confident we can work together to do that,” the spokesperson said.
However, Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez appeared adamant when he told Waymo and Cruise that its robotaxis are not welcome in Los Angeles. Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, Soto-Martinez says he is standing up to the driverless taxis for the risks they pose to pedestrians and other vehicles, TechCrunch reported.
Waymo’s tour and the subsequent pushback come after the California DMV suspended Cruise’s robotaxi from operating in San Francisco while it investigates potential safety and health hazards. The DMV’s suspension comes after a pedestrian was hit by a human driver and thrown underneath a Cruise robotaxi and dragged for 20 feet.