Waymo's Autonomous Chrysler Pacificas Hit The Streets of San Francisco

It's a homecoming of sorts for the former Google self-driving car project.

Waymo

Since Waymo converted its fleet of self-driving cars to Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, testing has primarily taken place in Arizona. But TechCrunch recently spotted a Waymo Pacifica on the streets of San Francisco, and the company subsequently confirmed that it is returning to the City by the Bay.

San Francisco was one of the first cities where Waymo tested autonomous vehicles, back when it was the Google self-driving car project. It began testing cars in the city in 2009, a Waymo spokesperson told TechCrunch. California was one of the first states to explicitly permit the testing of self-driving cars on public roads, and it's the home state of Waymo's parent company, Google.

Waymo has since expanded testing to other states that have autonomous-car regulations in place. In Arizona, it operates a pilot ride-sharing service that members of the public can opt into, and even operates some cars with no human driver behind the wheel.

But San Francisco represents not only a homecoming of sorts for Waymo, but also some very specific challenges. Its hilly streets, dense traffic, and persistent fog make for less-than-ideal driving conditions. Waymo isn't the only company testing self-driving cars in San Francisco: General Motors' Cruise Automation division operates there as well, and Lyft is planning a San Francisco autonomous ride-sharing pilot with startup Drive.ai.

With so many self-driving cars roaming the streets, San Francisco residents may soon view them as unremarkable. But isn't that the future the companies developing these vehicles are aiming for?