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Waymo starts testing self-driving minivans in San Francisco

The company is returning to its autonomous vehicle roots. Waymo's self-driving minivans are now ready for the road. The company has confirmed to TechCrunch that it's testing its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica vehicles on San Francisco streets, where the "hilly and foggy" environment should give them "even more practice." Suffice it to say the densely packed city could provide a greater challenge than Chandler, Arizona, whose spacious suburban landscape is well-suited to driverless car experiments. The testing is a callback of sorts for Waymo -- the formerly Google-owned company notes that it conducted some of its first tests in San Francisco back in 2009. Circumstances have changed a lot in the past 9 years, of course. Where self-driving cars had barely gotten started the first time around, they're now advanced enough that driverless taxi services loom on the horizon. It's still likely to be a long while before a robotic ride takes you from SoMA to North Beach, but there's a good chance you won't have to wait another 9 years for that to happen.

Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica begins testing in San Francisco

Waymo is bringing its self-driving cars back to San Francisco streets for testing. TechCrunch has obtained pictures of the Waymo Chrysler Pacifica autonomous test vehicle on SF city roads, and Waymo confirmed that it is indeed bringing test vehicles back to one of the first spots where it ever tested AVs in the first place. A Waymo spokesperson provided the following statement about its latest-generation test vehicle arriving in San Francisco: San Francisco was one of the first cities where we tested our self-driving cars, dating back to 2009 when we traveled everything from Lombard Street to the Golden Gate Bridge. Now that we have the worlds first fleet of fully self-driving cars running in Arizona, the hilly and foggy streets of San Francisco will give our cars even more practice in different terrains and environments. Waymo has one of the most extensive testing programs of anyone in the industry, in geographic terms; the former Google self-driving car company has now tested its autonomous vehicles in 24 cities across the U.S. Its goal with these tests is to expose its fleet to a wide variety of road and weather conditions, as well as to variances in local traffic patterns and human driving habits. In San Francisco, itll have the chance to deal with fog, of course, and with roads with steep inclines, as well as fairly dense peak traffic, ample bike, scooter and pedestrian activity, frequent ongoing road work and a lot more. Waymo revealed last year that its test fleet in Arizona now includes fully driverless vehicles, with no safety driver behind the wheel at all (the cars in San Francisco will have safety drivers, by the way). The cars there can range across the entire area Waymo has set up around Chandler, Arizona for picking up and dropping off members of its pilot program of its forthcoming fully autonomous ride-hailing service.