Safety drivers who are piloting Waymo's self-driving cars around San Francisco as part of a testing program that has been ongoing for several years were instructed on Monday to bring the vehicles back to Mountain View.
As The Verge reports, the decision to temporarily pause testing was made out of an abundance of caution ahead of some of the planned protests around the general election," according to Chris Cheung, who's leading the program being conducted by Waymo's vendor, Transdev North America. The emails to drivers instructed them to turn the vehicles to manual mode and drive them down to the headquarters in Mountain View, and then take Uber or Lyft rides back to their personal vehicles.
The testing is being suspended both Tuesday and Wednesday in San Francisco, according to the Alphabet subsidiary, and drivers are being compensated for the time off.
It's probably a wise move since if there's anything that young anarchists and vandals hate more than the cops, it's tech companies like Google.
The robo-minivans have been rolling around the Bay Area continuously since early June, following a pause that began in March due to concerns about the pandemic and keeping employees on the road.
Just as the pandemic was widening in the U.S. in early March, Waymo received its first influx of cash — $2.25 billion — in its first funding round independent of Alphabet, though Waymo CEO John Krafcik said at the time that fully spinning off from Alphabet was still just "a possibility."
Waymo was spun off as its own subsidiary separate from Google back in 2016. In 2018 it launched its Waymo One ride-hailing service in Arizona, though that program was limited to just a small number of users and was not allowing fully autonomous vehicles without safety operators, until recently.
Experts and Krafcik himself have said that fully autonomous taxis are still probably a couple of decades off — and we shouldn't forget that one of these vehicles, owned by Uber, fatally struck a pedestrian in Tempe in March 2018, even with a driver behind the wheel, though that driver has been found to have been allegedly negligent and distracted at the time, and she's been charged with the crime.