What it's like to ride in a self-driving taxi

ABC News

(SAN FRANCISCO) — With self-driving cars already here, San Francisco took another step forward recently, allowing companies to offer driverless taxi services in the city.

Last month, officials voted to allow two companies, Cruise and Waymo, to charge passengers to ride in their driverless cars across all of San Francisco, a city with over 800,000 residents.

ABC News’ Becky Worley took a ride with each so-called robotaxi service.

To book a ride with Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, Worley used an app, just like any other rideshare service.

When her car pulled up without anyone inside, Worley commented how strange it was, saying, “There’s nobody here, so weird.”

Inside the car, Worley sat in the backseat and watched as the steering wheel, working on its own, navigated her to her destination.

The car made its way through a parking lot and a complicated intersection and maneuvered itself well after a motorcycle cut in front of the car, according to Worley.

“The first five minutes, I was paying attention like I was driving,” Worley said of the experience. “And then you sort of get used to it.”

Next, Worley tried a robotaxi operated by Cruise, which is owned by General Motors.

She ordered the car via an app and, again, sat in the backseat of a car with no one else inside.

As the car drove itself, Worley said it came to an abrupt stop at an intersection when a pedestrian on the sidewalk stepped into the street, seemingly without looking.

Worley described the stop as “abrupt” and “jarring” for her as a rider. Cruise told ABC News that their cameras were tracking the pedestrian the whole time and that the car acted as it is programmed to do, veering left and braking to keep a safe distance from the pedestrian.

Worley eventually arrived safely at her destination.

Since the launch of self-driving taxis in San Francisco, there have been safety issues with cars from both Cruise and Waymo. Recently, the city asked Cruise to reduce the number of its cars on the streets as they work out the technology.

Cruise told ABC News in a statement, “We are proud of our safety record, which encompasses more than 4 million driverless miles in complex urban environments.”

Waymo told ABC News it is also focused on safety, saying in a statement, “Safety is our mission and top priority as we develop and deploy this technology.”

In addition to San Francisco, both companies are testing out their services in smaller rollouts in cities including Atlanta, Nashville, Tennessee; Los Angeles, Miami and Phoenix.

Christine Crosby, a mom of two, said she is a fan of self-driving taxis, having been a rider in Waymo’s pilot program in San Francisco. She said she tried out the service on her own first, without her kids, ages 6 and 1, but now brings her with them.

“I take my kids in this thing all the time,” said Crosby, who has taken over 150 rides — and counting — in self-driving taxis.

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