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A Waymo self-driving vehicle. Still photo from Waymo video
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Google Autonomous Vehicles

Waymo Riders Describe Experiences on the Road

Photo: A Waymo self-driving vehicle. Still photo from Waymo video

The Information analyzed internal feedback about the performance of Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving taxis on public streets, covering more than 10,500 rides in July and part of August. The reports from riders using the service in suburban Phoenix and in the San Francisco Bay Area, portions of which we describe below, provide an unprecedented view into the most high-profile autonomous vehicle development effort in the world, underscoring the extreme difficulty of making automated taxis mainstream. 

All autonomous vehicle developers have internal metrics for the performance of their vehicles. General Motors’ Cruise, which has struggled to launch a robotaxi business on the streets of San Francisco, has experienced substantial glitches and calculated that its prototypes are 10 to 20 times less safe, on average, than typical American drivers, as The Information previously reported. At Waymo, which is the furthest along in terms of carrying real passengers, the feedback those riders provide on their trips is a way of evaluating Waymo’s software performance. Ultimately, Waymo is seeking to compete directly with Uber and Lyft in ride hailing, its executives say.

An overview of Waymo rider feedback can be found in a separate story here, while a more detailed breakdown appears below. Most of Waymo’s riders during the period of The Information’s analysis gave their trips perfect scores—70% did so in the Phoenix area. This analysis covers most of the trouble spots noticed by riders of the self-driving taxis in suburban Phoenix and Silicon Valley. Waymo’s vehicles take more than 300 trips per day with passengers in those two places.

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