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Cruising around San Francisco, with no one at the wheel| GuyWhoKnowsThings

When David De Clercq traveled to San Francisco last year, he had a few must-dos on his itinerary: go to Alcatraz. Try new restaurants. And travel in an autonomous car.

Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles or, colloquially, robotaxis, have been on the streets of San Francisco in some form since 2009 and have been operating commercially since last August. Cars are also emerging as the city's latest tourist attraction.

De Clercq, 42, who divides his time between New Jersey and Sardinia, where he owns restaurants and bars and rents villas, is an avid traveler.

“I love exploring and doing new things,” he said. “I knew I definitely wanted a ride while I was in town.”

Conversations abound reddit and xand visitors are looking for tips on how to get a ride while in San Francisco or how to be well positioned to spot a driverless car while traveling.

Some basics are needed when planning your own robotaxi trip. Firstly, while audiovisual companies like to Cruise and zoox have proliferated in recent years, WaymoOwned by Alphabet (Google's parent company), it is currently the only company offering rides to the public in San Francisco.

Waymo also operates in the Phoenix metropolitan area, offering rides to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and is currently slowly rolling out rides in Los Angeles and testing rides on the San Francisco Peninsula and in Austin, Texas. In Phoenix, you can call a Waymo using the Uber app; at all other locations, downloading the Waymo app is required. (The app is very similar to other ride-hailing services; the price is also comparable.) And in almost every service area, there is a waiting list to be granted access.

Anjelica Price-Rocha, public relations manager for Waymo, could not provide specific estimates on waitlist times in various cities, but she did say that the wait is shorter in San Francisco than in Los Angeles. (I signed up for the app in San Francisco at the end of April and got off the waitlist a little over a week later.)

“For anyone visiting San Francisco, I would suggest getting on the waitlist as soon as you book your trip,” Ms. Price-Rocha said. Looking to spot a Waymo car while traveling? According to Ms. Price-Rocha, popular pick-up and drop-off locations include tourist attractions such as the Ferry Building, Pier 39, Coit Tower and Japantown Peace Square.

Can't get direct access in time? Try asking friends, family, or colleagues if they'll take you out for a ride. Jason Karsh, a 38-year-old San Francisco resident who works as a technology marketing executive and consultant, regularly “says hello” to Waymo cars and suggests riding in them as a tourist activity.

“San Francisco has had a bad reputation among visitors recently,” Karsh said. “This is a reminder that San Francisco is also a place that lives technologically a few years into the future.”

Waymo vehicles are fully electric Jaguar I-PACE equipped with radar, lidar, sensors and internal and external cameras. Use the app to unlock the car when you arrive and play music during the ride. There are four seats available for passengers: you can sit in front, but you cannot sit in the driver's seat (if you try, the car will not move). A real customer support team remotely monitors your trip for unsafe activities and is available in case you need help.

Karsh described a recent trip with a group of colleagues: “They immediately took out their phones and started filming, almost as if they were filming a celebrity or a concert.”

In fact, riding a Waymo can make you the main attraction. On a recent trip through San Francisco with my visiting in-laws, we not only filmed much of our trip, but we also saw a group of tourists pointing and staring at our driverless vehicle, and even taking out their phones to take their own images .

De Clercq, who visited us from New Jersey, described his trip home after a night of partying in Chinatown as “very interesting and futuristic.” “He was extremely cautious and quite slow.”

According security data According to the company, Waymos is significantly safer than human drivers. That has not prevented the public reaction about autonomous vehicles – California suspended cruise vehicles to operate on the streets of San Francisco following an incident in which a pedestrian was struck and dragged under a vehicle. There have been periodic complaints that Waymo cars lock up. traffic and emergency vehicles Crashes, largely involving stationary objects, have caused a federal investigation from Waymo.

However, in Karsh's experience, Waymo rides are sometimes not perfect because they are too cautious.

“If there is a car stopped with its hood up on a two-lane street, a human driver will know to turn around. A Waymo could just sit there,” he said.

But perhaps the most notable aspect of a Waymo ride for the first time is how quickly it feels normal.

“For the first few minutes, there is vertigo,” Price-Rocha said. “But we see that, very quickly, people adapt easily to the experience.”

Karsh saw this change firsthand on a recent trip to New York City, when his family opted to ride a yellow cab.

“My three-and-a-half-year-old son turns to me and my wife and says, 'Look, Dad, a driver!' He was a little surprised.”

Follow the travels of the New York Times on instagram and Subscribe to our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter for expert tips on how to travel smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Are you dreaming of a future getaway or simply traveling from an armchair? Take a look at our 52 places to go in 2024.

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