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August 3, 2023

Waymo One heads to Austin

  • Company News
Waymo driving through Austin streets with "Howdy Austin" text overlay
Waymo driving through Austin streets with "Howdy Austin" text overlay

It’s official. Austin will be Waymo’s fourth major ride-hail city, joining Metro Phoenix, San Francisco and Los Angeles, as we continue to expand and build momentum for our commercial ride-hail business.

For the past few months, our team tested in and around downtown in our all-electric Jaguar I-PACE vehicles to reacquaint the generalizable Waymo Driver with the city. With this early testing successfully concluded, we’ll begin an initial phase of operations this fall, with fully autonomous deployment and our first rides with the public in the months following.

We intend for our Austin operations to be a truly useful service from the start, traversing a large portion of the city night and day. The Waymo Driver will travel to many popular locations, like the heart of downtown, Barton Hills, Riverside, East Austin, Hyde Park and more.

“Austin is one of the most vibrant and dynamic cities in the country, and we’ve found that the Waymo Driver is adapting to its complex cityscape incredibly quickly,” said Saswat Panigrahi, Chief Product Officer at Waymo. “Autonomous vehicles make transportation safer, greener and more accessible, and we can’t wait for Austinites to experience these benefits for themselves.”

Expanding Waymo One to Austin is an exciting milestone. It means members of the public will again ride with Waymo in the city — almost a decade after Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, took the world’s first ride in a fully autonomous vehicle on public streets in Waymo’s Firefly prototype vehicle back in 2015. As the second-fastest-growing major city economy in the country, Austin represents a significant commercial opportunity for Waymo’s growing operations.

Waymo car waiting for train to pass in Downtown Austin

More urgently, the evidence to date is clear that autonomous vehicles help improve road safety. Last year alone, 125 people died in road traffic accidents in Austin — 51 of them pedestrians or cyclists. Many of them died in crashes with drivers who were speeding, intoxicated or distracted — all scenarios the Waymo Driver can avoid by following the rules of the road and being attentive at all times. We’ve also taken important measures to communicate with and protect vulnerable road users, like reducing “dooring” incidents with cyclists through our Safe Exit features.

"One of the greatest access barriers for individuals who are blind is the reliance on others for transportation," said Emily Coleman, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. "Whether it's work, leisure or family obligations, they require support to get around — a luxury many of us take for granted. Providing access to autonomous vehicles gives them the ability to be independent travelers and feel empowered to seek out the lives they want without the obligation to trust strangers."

Our important work with Austin accessibility advocates helps us tailor our ride-hailing service to some of the most traditionally underserved groups. At Waymo, engaging with and developing our product for the communities we serve begins well before deploying cars.

The Waymo Driver also improves access to sustainable transportation, helping connect many more Austinites to their local communities through an all-electric, zero-emissions ride-hailing service that could help the city meet its ambitious targets to reach net-zero emissions by 2040.

We’re thrilled to continue meeting with and learning from the local community as we prepare to launch Waymo One. Austinites who are excited to ride can sign up for our waitlist at ​​