It would take up deliveries, not passengers.
Waymo’s plan to resume self-driving operations will soon extend to San Francisco. A spokesperson has confirmed a report in The Verge that Waymo’s autonomous minivans will return to San Francisco Bay Area streets on June 8th. The company isn’t carrying passengers, however. It will instead carry out “charitable delivery support to community partners,” according to the spokesperson. The original report said these would include art kit deliveries for local children as well as services for LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
According to the leaked email from Waymo partner Transdev, the resumption will involve gradually ramping up the number of vehicle operators (no more than one per van) while enforcing a “wealth of safety measures and training” that include temperature checks. Drivers can claim exemptions for COVID-19 related issues like pre-existing conditions or childcare issues.
In a statement, Waymo told Engadget that it was ramping up after “careful consideration” and that its team’s health and safety was its “number one priority.” You can read the full statement below.
A driver talking to The Verge characterized this as Waymo exploiting a “loophole” to get back to testing, but that’s not necessarily the case. The company believes its deliveries are well within the rules, and that it’s safe as part of a gradual return to multi-person trips. Provided that’s accurate, it may just be a matter of when Waymo and rivals can resume something resembling normal business — that may take much longer.