Alphabet wants to compete with the likes of Lyft and Uber, but it’s been very slow to expand “Waymo One” outside of Phoenix. That’s now changing with the launch of Waymo One Trusted Tester in San Francisco.

“Trusted Tester” is the new name of the “Early Rider” program that Waymo first used to trial autonomous trips in one part of Arizona. It’s initially “research-focused,” but people in San Francisco will be able to hail a ride in an all-electric Jaguar I-Pace. 

This started last week and is “now expanding the program to all interested San Franciscans.” That said, it will be limited to an “initial group,” and Waymo will “welcome more riders in the weeks to come.” It follows employee testing earlier this year and Google’s long 12-year history of testing in the city. 

SF is a notoriously difficult environment for self-driving cars to navigate. It’s much more difficult than the suburbs of Phoenix, with other companies believing that launching a capable service in the California city will make AV expansion to other places much easier.

Our San Francisco Trusted Testers can hail autonomous rides for their everyday needs anywhere they want to go in our initial service area, whether it’s their favorite bakery in the Sunset, or a special picnic spot in Golden Gate park.

These rides will have a safety driver behind the wheel that can take over as necessary. You will use the Waymo One app to request access and pickups (including those that need a wheelchair-accessible vehicle) in San Francisco, as well as provide feedback.

Meanwhile, The Verge confirms that rides during the SF Trusted Tester period, like in Arizona, will be free, while participants are required to sign an NDA to presumably cap early videos and less-than-optimal performance.

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: