Driverless cars are back on Austin roads as of March 6.

The overview

Technology company Waymo announced March 5 that it will test drive autonomous vehicles around the city with employees as passengers but not behind the wheel.

The cars will drive within a 43-square-mile radius that includes downtown, Barton Hills, Riverside, East Austin and Hyde Park.

In San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix, residents can hail a Waymo as a driverless rideshare. Austin may become the fourth city to get this service, but a timeline to roll this out has not yet been announced by company officials.

Looking back

In October, General Motors’ Cruise announced all operations of autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars, will be paused nationally until further notice. This followed a decision by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend Cruise’s deployment and driverless testing permits.

Cruise launched in Austin in September 2022 and had been test driving autonomous vehicles without a driver in Austin during the day, and offering driverless ride shares to select customers at night.

Resident complaints and concerns brought up by city officials questioned the safety of the driverless cars for months.

City leaders were unable to regulate the vehicles due to Senate Bill 2205, a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2017. The law amended the Texas Transportation Code with policies governing autonomous vehicles. In addition, SB 2205 placed oversight in the state’s hands, rather than local municipalities.

What’s next

Waymo CEO Tekedra Mawakana will discuss autonomous vehicles and safety during a panel at the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals on March 13.