Waymo self-propelled vehicles are returning to public roads in the San Francisco Bay area for the first time since the company stopped public testing in early March due to an outbreak of coronavirus. The Alphabet-owned company plans to return its fleet of autonomous minivans to operation from June 8 – this is evidenced by the email that went to The Verge.
Waymo robots will be used to deliver packages for two non-profit organizations: #DrawTogether illustrator Wendy McNaughton, who provides art kits for children; and Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired).
The company resorts to deliveries to circumvent restrictions that would otherwise require their autonomous vehicles to remain off the public roads. Waymo, along with other California-based companies in the field, suspended the testing of robotic vehicles in mid-March after the city issued a self-isolation order banning all non-essential trips. This order does not yet have a fixed expiration date.
It is not clear how many vehicles will be involved in delivery services or how many vehicle operators will be returned to work. Waymo backup drivers work at Transdev North America, which provides drivers for buses, trams and other vehicles at airports and cities. Last summer, Waymo signed a multi-year contract with Transdev, that is, in the coming years all robomobiles will have drivers (more precisely, operators in case of unexpected situations). For non-commercial deliveries, only one operator is required for each vehicle, according to the email.
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