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February 7, 2023

Why I Ride with Waymo: Erik

  • Waymo One
Erik riding in Waymo
Erik riding in Waymo

Editor’s note: As a single dad in San Francisco, Erik needs a safe and reliable transportation method to get his kids around the city. Enter Waymo One. Since becoming a Trusted Tester over a year ago, Erik has taken over 450 rides with the Waymo Driver and has seen a marked improvement from then to now. Hear more from Erik about what’s gotten better and some of the interesting scenarios he’s encountered along the way, including details of his first rider-only trip.

Erik, it was great meeting you and your family a few months ago at our SF rider meetup event. It sounds like you and your kids use Waymo a lot, so we’d love to hear more about how it’s been going so far.

We love Waymo! I live in the Sunset/Parkside district of San Francisco and have been riding for just over a year now. In that time, I’ve taken 465 rides, rode 1,038 miles, and been in the car for more than 5,230 minutes. I am a single dad who prefers not to drive, and Waymo has really helped me because I rely on it to take my 6 and 9 year old children to school and back.

We’re so glad Waymo could fill a transportation gap for you. How else do you use the service?

We ride about 3-5 times a week for all kinds of things, like going out to eat or grabbing coffee, traveling to medical appointments, and connecting to other transit options like Muni. We love getting to see how the technology works in every ride.

What has your rider-only experience been like?

The first time, it was an adrenaline rush and a bit surreal. The ride went smoothly without any errors. Not having a stranger in the car made my kids and I feel much more relaxed. We felt like we could be ourselves and act normal. I didn't feel the need to monitor my kids closely to make sure they weren't being too loud. We put on music and they sang loudly. The most exciting part was the looks from pedestrians. We had our window cracked and could overhear comments. We passed several parents walking their children to school and heard comments such as "look, no driver” and “there are people in the back seat!" When we pulled up at my kids' school, some of the parents and kids stopped and stared at the driverless car. We felt like celebrities.

What do you usually do during your rides now that you don’t have to worry about driving?

Spend some quality time with my kids. That said, I do appreciate and enjoy the silence most of the time and like to look out the window at trees and plants and the architecture of people's homes. Other times I enjoy following the Waymo Driver’s path in the map screen in the back of the car and thinking about how it handles different situations it encounters.

One time we were going through a busy intersection with no traffic lights or walk signals, just a four way stop, outside of a high school when about 80 students were trying to cross the street in all directions. It did an excellent job and often notices people sometimes before I do.

San Francisco is a great place to spot amazing architecture, that’s for sure. Any improvements you’ve noticed with the Waymo Driver in your time as a Trusted Tester?

I have definitely watched it grow and improve over the past year and have noticed a definite improvement with the decisions the autonomous driver makes. The consistency of the service, such as with pick-up times or the audio feature working, has also gotten better.

Glad to hear it. It seems like your kids enjoy riding with an autonomous driver, but what do your other friends and family think?

Yes, my kids think it’s very cool, and so does my family. I grew up in Tennessee, so most of my family has never seen an autonomously driven car. They think I live a cool life.

What are you most looking forward to as autonomous driving technology becomes more widespread?

How it will save lives by taking human error out of the equation. I’m also excited about the privacy; my kids like to talk to each other and sing, but they get shy with a new person in the car. It’s been great experiencing this technology with them, and I truly appreciate the opportunity to be a Trusted Tester.