Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, has previously said that vast majority of its autonomous vehicle testing has been taking place in the following five cities: Mountain View, California; Austin, Texas; Kirkland, Washington; Phoenix, Arizona; and Detroit, Michigan. The company has now expanded to San Francisco, California, spotted by TechCrunch.
TechCrunch was able to obtain pictures of a Waymo autonomous minivan on the streets of San Francisco. This forced the company to admit that it had returned back to its city of origin, where the company first began testing back in 2009.
— TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) January 12, 2018
This is definitely an interesting move, rather a significant one at that. The company testing in San Francisco tells us that they are interested in tackling denser, more congested urban streets after testing on smaller, more low-slung communities. This is also a shot at GM, which has been testing its autonomous Cruise vehicles in San Francisco and has plans to launch a public ride-hail service in the city.
In San Francisco, Waymo will have the opportunity to deal with heavy fog and steep hills that the city is most famous for, as well as thousands of pedestrians, bicyclists, and bad drivers. In a statement, a Waymo spokesperson said, “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.”