Waymo Launches Driverless Taxi Service in Austin

Austin will become the fourth location where Waymo is running its driverless Jaguar I-Pace SUVs

Graham Hope

March 8, 2024

3 Min Read
A Waymo self-driving taxi on a road

Self-driving taxi company Waymo’s expansion is continuing apace, with the company confirming that driverless rides are set to get under way in Austin, Texas.

As has been the case in the other cities where Waymo is operating, the rides will initially be only available to employees.

But the launch of staff rides is seen as an important marker en route to launching a commercial driverless ride-hailing service to the general public in Austin at a later date, although Waymo has not yet provided a definitive timeline as to when that might be.

The news was confirmed by chief product officer Saswat Panigrahi via a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Panigrahi wrote: “We are excited to begin driving with no human at the wheel in Austin tomorrow. We’ll be driving across 43 square miles of Austin, encompassing the heart of downtown, Barton Hills, Riverside, East Austin, Hyde Park and more.”

View post on X

As Panigrahi pointed out, Austin will become the fourth location where Waymo is running its driverless Jaguar I-Pace SUVs.

Its commercial service is well-established in Phoenix, Arizona, where its autonomous vehicles (AVs) are a common sight shuttling between Sky Harbor International Airport and downtown, and where it also recently started driverless testing at higher speeds on the city’s highways.

Related:Waymo California Expansion Gets Greenlight

Waymo is also offering commercial rides in San Francisco, California, and has been testing in Los Angeles County.

The Austin breakthrough caps a successful week for the company owned by Google’s parent, Alphabet.

Just a matter of days ago, it learned that its application to expand its operations in California had been approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

CPUC agreed to Waymo’s request to significantly extend its San Francisco coverage to incorporate much of the Bay Area, including a host of Peninsula cities such as Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Mateo.

Despite objections from some local officials, Waymo also got the greenlight to hugely increase its footprint in Los Angeles County, too.

Panigrahi added: “The Waymo Driver [Waymo’s self-driving tech] continues to generalize well to new environments. Our maturing operations in Austin build on over 15 years experience we’ve carefully built driving autonomously across the U.S. 

“Our disciplined deployment in Texas’ capital brings us one step closer to safely delivering the benefits of fully autonomous driving to many more people.”

The Austin announcement is strategically timed, coinciding with the city’s hosting of SXSW 2024. And it underscores how Waymo has forged ahead in America in the AV race, following the disastrous chain of events that has seen chief rival Cruise suspend all operations and lose $1 billion of investment from General Motors.

Related:Driverless Waymo Taxis Coming to Phoenix Highways

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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