Waymo doubles service area for its fleet of robo-taxis

You have to be in Phoenix or San Francisco to try it.

Peter DaSilva / reuters

Waymo is doubling the operational area for its fleet of self-driving taxis, making what the company calls “the largest fully autonomous service area in the world.” The rapid growth is limited to Phoenix and San Francisco, but Waymo has big plans for both territories.

In Phoenix, for instance, self-driving cars are no longer limited to just the metro area and will travel to nearby communities like Chandler, Tempe and Mesa. This totals 180 square miles of territory and is four times larger than the initial service area back when it launched in 2020. Phoenix also hosts a true open beta of the service, as anyone in the area with the Waymo One app can order up a piping hot robo-car. Waymo opened up a second physical ride-hailing station in the city to help shuttle folks to and from the airport.

The company has only been in San Francisco for several months, so don’t expect the same kind of growth as seen in Phoenix. Still, Waymo says the service is expanding to new parts of the city, like North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf. You must be enrolled in the company’s Trusted Tester program to hail a self-driving car in the city for now, as the company’s still waiting for a final permit to open up the program to the general public. To that end, Waymo says there are currently “tens of thousands” of San Francisco residents on the waitlist.

“Waymo One remains the only and largest 24/7 fully autonomous ride-hailing service in the world — serving thousands of rides in multiple key markets — and we’re scaling quickly,” said Saswat Panigrahi, Waymo Chief Product Officer.

The company touts more than ten thousand trips per week with a proposed increase to 100,000 trips by next summer. To get there, Waymo says it’s implementing software updates to increase reliability, with improved hand gesture detection, more versatile multi-point maneuvers and new tools to deal with inclement weather. The Alphabet-owned brand is also converting to an all-electric fleet. Finally, Waymo hasn’t forgotten about Los Angeles, its newest trial city, saying it continues to “grow rider-only testing operations” in the area.