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Driverless cars haven’t been able to charm everyone, and that’s certainly true in Santa Monica, where Waymo’s launch was met with protests from both Teamsters and local community groups on Wednesday
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While Waymo has been testing around the LA area since since 2019, October 11 was the official start date of its robotaxi service Waymo One. Anyone that’s interested can sign up online and receive a free week of rides. Many riders were lined up and excited to give the cars a try, like one woman who has an interesting way of seeing whether or not the cars tech is up to snuff.
Emily Watts, an animator who lives in Santa Monica, dreams of the day she can put her two daughters in a Waymo and send them off to soccer and swim practice.
They’re a little young — 6 and 7 — but “in the future, it’ll be awesome,” Watts said.
Watts, 42, said she’s not nervous to ride in one after doing a little testing of her own over the last few months. She’s driven past several Waymo vehicles and has tried swerving into their lane “just a little bit” or stepping into the street with her dog when she sees one coming.
“I’ll try to trick them,” Watts said, laughing. “They’ve been very good.”
The launch was not welcomed by everyone though. The Times says 30 protesters showed up mid morning consisting of local community groups and Teamsters Union Local 630. Many held signs that read “Waymo Hell No!” The Teamsters seem to be worried about jobs and the risk to drivers on local roads.
“We cannot allow the unchecked deployment of untested technology on our roads,” said Chris Griswold, President of Teamsters Joint Council 42. “Our priority is safety and the protection of jobs. We urge all local elected leaders in L.A. County to hold companies like Waymo accountable by ensuring that this technology is thoroughly tested and regulated before more damage is done to our communities, as we have seen in other regions of the country.”
A very public string of mishaps with Cruise in Northern California have turned the public and some officials there against the burgeoning technology. Data shows that accidents involving Waymo vehicles have usually occurred when another vehicle hits the driverless car. Waymo vehicles do have issues trying “to steer clear of irregularly shaped inanimate objects,” according to Ars Technica. Even with those issues, Waymo maintains that“ its collision numbers may be higher because it reports even minor accidents”, its driverless cars have helped reduce injuries and fatalities.