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If You’re Going to San Francisco, Be Sure to Ride In a Driverless Car

If You’re Going to San Francisco, Be Sure to Ride In a Driverless Car

When David De Clercq traveled to San Francisco last year, he had a few musts on his itinerary: Go to Alcatraz. Try new restaurants. And ride in a self-driving car.

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

Mr. De Clercq, 42, who splits 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 that I definitely wanted to get a ride while I was in town.”

Conversations abound on Reddit and X, with visitors seeking advice on how to secure a ride while in San Francisco, or be well positioned to spot a driverless car on the go.

Some basics are necessary when plotting your own robotaxi ride. First, while A.V. companies like Cruise and Zoox have proliferated in recent years, Waymo, which is owned by Alphabet (Google’s parent company), is currently the only company offering rides for the public in San Francisco.

Waymo also operates in the Phoenix metro area, including 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 hail a Waymo using the Uber app; in all other locations, downloading the Waymo app is required. (The app is very similar to other ride-hailing services; pricing is comparable, too.) And in almost all service areas, there is a waiting list to be granted access.

Anjelica Price-Rocha, a public relations manager for Waymo, was not able to provide specific estimates for waiting list 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 in late April and was off the waiting list just over a week later.)

“For anyone visiting San Francisco, I would suggest that you get on the wait list as soon as you book your trip,” Ms. Price-Rocha said. Looking to spot a Waymo car on the go? According to Ms. Price-Rocha, popular pickup and drop-off locations include tourist attractions like the Ferry Building, Pier 39, Coit Tower and the Japantown Peace Plaza.

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