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January 8, 2024

From surface streets to freeways, safely expanding our rider-only testing

  • Technology
Waymo One I-PACE on Freeway
Waymo One I-PACE on Freeway

Waymo will begin testing its fully autonomous passenger cars without a human driver on freeways in Phoenix to soon help Waymo One riders get where they’re going safely and efficiently. Just as we've taken a phased approach to rolling out our technology and operations in the past, we will continue to deploy in a step-by-step manner, first providing rider-only trips to our employees on freeways across Phoenix.

We have years of safe and proven experience operating fleets of rider-only vehicles on public roads across California and Arizona, and millions of miles of experience operating autonomous class 8 trucks and cars on freeways with a specialist present. As part of our focus on scaling ride hailing, we’ve incrementally ramped up our testing on freeways with passenger vehicles over the past year. Now, as we prepare to take the next step of removing the autonomous specialist from our operations, we’re following the same processes outlined by our safety framework that helped us responsibly launch and expand the world’s first fully autonomous ride hailing service over three years ago.

Safety officials working with Waymo on Freeway
As Waymo expands its operations we closely coordinate with public safety officials, outlining best practices for what we should do in certain events, and familiarizing their teams with our technology

Before expanding, we ensure we have a comprehensive understanding of the environment we plan to operate and our system’s capabilities. Waymo’s years of experience driving cars and trucks on freeways taught us to navigate everyday scenarios autonomously and inform our approach to responding to rare events safely. We continuously iterate and improve our technology and operations through a rigorous process that combines structured testing, simulation, and public road operations so we’re prepared for this next phase.

As we gradually ramp up our operations, Waymo employees will have the opportunity to hail rider-only trips on freeways across Phoenix. Waymonauts will provide invaluable feedback about the service and rider experience during freeway trips before we welcome Waymo One riders.

Example showing difference in time it takes on a Phoenix route for surface streets vs using freeways
Example Waymo One routes utilizing freeways versus utilizing only surface streets

Taking a freeway instead of a surface street in Phoenix can significantly improve a rider's experience. For example, a trip from Sky Harbor Airport to the northern parts of Scottsdale can be 50% faster by taking AZ-101 compared to city streets. The ability to utilize freeways will be especially important as we scale our operations to other cities. For this reason, we are laser focused on our freeway ride hailing testing.

 With Waymo One, we are already helping tens of thousands of riders safely and delightfully get where they’re going in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. We appreciate their enthusiasm, and work hard everyday to earn their trust. To hail a ride with the Waymo Driver, download the Waymo One App today.