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Waymo expands to New York to give its software more experience

Waymo wants to map the streets with no plans forthcoming to actually launch autonomous cars locally.

Waymo self-driving car
Next stop, New York City.
Waymo

Make way for Waymo, New York. The autonomous car startup under Alphabet's umbrella said on Wednesday it will begin deploying vehicles on Thursday, Nov. 4. But these won't be the familiar self-driving cars we've seen for a few years now. Instead, they'll be human-driven to start mapping city streets so its software can begin learning the ins and outs of NYC. In fact, Waymo told Roadshow it has "no immediate plans" to launch autonomous cars in NYC. Really, this is about its software gaining experience, so nothing too sexy on the self-driving car front.

Specifically, residents and tourists will see Waymo vehicles with human drivers south of Central Park and down into the Financial District. Just five of the firm's specially equipped Chrysler Pacifica minivans will be on the roads to start, but Waymo plans to introduce a handful of its Jaguar I-Pace electric SUVs locally, too.

The company added it's excited to tackle an area like no other in the world. New York is the nation's most dense city, after all, and it poses new weather challenges. Heavy rains and snow aren't uncommon in the city, and it gives Waymo's software, known as the Waymo Driver, a chance to understand these conditions better. Further, it gives engineers a chance to see how the sensors and other gadgets perform in frigid temperatures and this kind of precipitation.

The news follows Waymo's expansions this year in Pittsburgh and the company's newly minted California DMV Deployment Permit. The latter is a big step toward launching a paid, self-driving ride-hailing service within California's state limits. Waymo also joins Mobileye, which launched its own autonomous prototype vehicles in New York earlier this year.