Waymo will soon begin testing self-driving cars on the South Bay Peninsula

Drivers weaving through traffic on the Camino Real may soon have recent cars to contend with, but nobody to direct their road rage at: self-driving cars are coming to the peninsula.

Autonomous vehicle maker Waymo will begin testing its robotaxis along the peninsula in the subsequent few weeks. This is step one in the corporate's plans to eventually expand its service areas into Sunnyvale.

“The Peninsula is our home – we want to bring the technology to the Peninsula because it's a good market and because we all want to use it there,” said Waymo product manager Chris Ludwick.

Waymo, which relies in Mountain View and owned by Google parent Alphabet, began operating a robotaxi fleet in Phoenix in 2020. In August 2023, the corporate expanded its service to San Francisco to a limited group of users, although a whole bunch remain on a waiting list for access. The company makes tens of hundreds of trips each week, Ludwick said.

During the Peninsula pilot, Waymo continues to check its driver-accompanied vehicles on trips as far south as Sunnyvale.

Just like in San Francisco, Waymo's “driver-only” cars shall be limited to country roads – meaning they will't access Highway 101 yet. San Francisco International Airport can also be off limits — although the corporate continues to barter with city officials about eventually offering flights there. (Waymo's Phoenix service area already includes the town's airport.)

The deployment of autonomous vehicles in San Francisco hasn't all the time been smooth. In August, nearly a dozen robotaxis from competitor Cruise blocked a street in North Beach, bringing traffic to a standstill. And in February, a crowd in Chinatown a Waymo automobile set on fire.

It was only a matter of time before Waymo announced a pilot project on the peninsula. In January the corporate submitted an application to the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates industrial passenger vehicles, to expand services south beyond San Francisco. The agency approved the appliance.

The CPUC's move sparked a dispute between the state and native authorities, who want the agency to make a decision whether self-driving cars can drive on their roads.

Dave Canepa, vice chairman of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, is amongst those protesting the introduction of autonomous vehicles.

“Why would a city or county allow the unrestricted use of robotaxis when they are proven to be disruptive and even deadly to first responders?” Canepa previously told this news organization. “What is needed is local control and not the blanket approval that the DMV and CPUC have received.”

The fight can also be shifting to the California Legislature. In January, Sen. Dave Cortese, a San Jose Democrat, introduced Senate Bill 915, which might give local governments the authority to allow and regulate autonomous vehicles. The bill is fixed for a Hearing before the Appropriations Committee on May sixth.

Ludwick said Waymo communicates repeatedly with local governments and law enforcement.

“When we expand somewhere, we take our time,” Ludwick said. “I am optimistic that we will achieve a good performance here and improve it in the future.”

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