Posts with «commercial vehicles» label

United Airlines grounds Airbus A321neo fleet over antiquated no smoking sign law

United Airlines briefly grounded its fleet of brand-new Airbus A321neo planes, according to a report by Gizmodo. This had nothing to do with safety, as was the case with that recent Boeing controversy. Rather, it was due to the aircraft running afoul of a 1990 regulation regarding “no smoking” signs.

The 1990 ruling mandates that “no smoking” signs found on aircraft must be manually operated by the crew. The newly-designed Airbus A321neo features software that automatically displays the signage during a flight, so the crew doesn’t switch it on and off. That’s pretty much it. Meanwhile, smoking itself was fully banned from both domestic and international flights nearly 25 years ago.

Automated signage systems are not new. Many air travel companies bypass the 1990 regulation by applying for an exemption with the Federal Aviation Authority. United filed for this exemption on behalf of its entire fleet back in 2020, which was granted. There’s just one problem. The company's Airbus A321neo is so new that it doesn’t fall under the protection of that exemption. These planes just started flying the friendly skies two months ago.

United is seeking permission from the FAA to add the Airbus A321neo to the pre-existing exemption. The federal agency has given United permission to fly its fleet of A321neos, five in all, while evaluating this request.

“As the FAA noted, this is not a safety of flight issue. Our five A321neos were briefly out of service on Monday while we worked through this issue with the FAA, resulting in a handful of delays but no cancellations as we swapped that flying to other aircraft types in an effort to minimize disruption for our customers,” United wrote in a statement.

There’s just one question left to ask. It costs around $130 million to manufacture just one A321neo aircraft, so United spent $650 million to make this fleet. That’s a whole lot of cheddar, so why didn’t it get this exemption stuff sorted before the company started booking flights?

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

FAA grounds roughly 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 planes after a cabin panel blew out during flight

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered airlines to temporarily ground some Boeing 737 Max 9 planes for safety inspections after an Alaska Airlines plane lost a cabin panel during a flight on Friday with about 180 people on board. The plane, which had only been in service since November, according to the New York Times, was able to safely land back at Portland International Airport in Oregon, where it had taken off from. There were no major injuries, though the Alaska division of the Association of Flight Attendants said workers described “explosive” decompression in the cabin and reported one flight attendant sustained minor injuries.

“The FAA is requiring immediate inspections of certain Boeing 737 Max 9 planes before they can return to flight,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said. “Safety will continue to drive our decision-making as we assist the NTSB’s investigation into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.” 

Immediately following the incident, Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci put out a statement saying the company would be grounding its fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 aircraft for what it expects to be a few days as it conducts safety checks. “Each aircraft will be returned to service only after completion of full maintenance and safety inspections,” Minicucci. The FAA order extends the grounding to “approximately 171 airplanes worldwide” that are either operated by US airlines or in US territory.

Minicucci also said that the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what happened with Flight 1282 and “we will fully support their investigation.” The plane had been on its way to Ontario, California. Reuters, citing FlightRadar24, reported that the blowout occurred at around 16,000 feet. In social media posts shared with Reuters and the NYT, passengers can be seen sitting right next to the gaping hole and the fully exposed sky.

Boeing's 737 Max was previously grounded for almost two years after fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019. All 189 people on board the plane were killed in the 2018 crash in Indonesia, and another 157 died in the 2019 crash in Ethiopia. In 2021, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion in a settlement with the Department of Justice to avoid criminal charges over the crashes.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Half of London's famed black cab taxi fleet are now EVs

Half of London's black cab fleet is now made up of zero-emission vehicles, manufacturer LEVC and Transport for London (TfL) announced. Of the 14,690 licensed taxis in the capital, 7,972 are battery electric vehicles (BEVs), with most manufactured by Geely's LEVC, according to the latest figures. The number of those models grew a fairly dramatic 10 percent in the last month alone. 

"Reaching this milestone is a great reflection of how London is working hard to be a greener, more sustainable, environmentally friendly city," said TfL's Helen Chapman. "London's black taxis are recognized worldwide and we are proud to see that so many drivers are helping clean up the air." 

New drivers haven't had a choice in the matter, though, as since 2018, TfL has required that all new cabs licensed in the city be zero emissions cable (the rule was extended to private minicabs last year). Cabbies with existing licenses have been motivated to change, too, as any still using less efficient vehicles have been required since 2020 to pay a daily rate (now £12.50) to operate in central London's Ultra Low Emission Zone.

Many of London's larger taxi and minicab operators have committed to fully-electric fleets by 2025. That includes the city's largest operator, Addison Lee (which uses VW ID 4s) saying it would reach that goal by 2023. London's Black Cabs are generally independently owned and licensed under strict rules by TfL. Uber recently announced that London's black taxis would be listed on its app and while some drivers have signed up, many decried the plan. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Hitting the Books: Voice-controlled AI copilots could lead to safer flights

Siri and Alexa were only the beginning. As voice recognition and speech synthesis technologies continue to mature, the days of typing on keyboards to interact with the digital world around us could be coming to an end — and sooner than many of us anticipated. Where today's virtual assistants exist on our mobile devices and desktops to provide scripted answers to specific questions, the LLM-powered generative AI copilots of tomorrow will be there, and everywhere else too. This is the "voice-first" future Tobias Dengel envisions in his new book, The Sound of the Future: The Coming Age of Voice Technology.

Using a wide-ranging set of examples, and applications in everything from marketing, sales and customer service to manufacturing and logistics, Dengel walks the reader through how voice technologies can revolutionize the ways in which we interact with the digital world. In the excerpt below, Dengel discusses voice technology might expand its role in the aviation industry, even after the disastrous outcome of its early use in the Boeing 737 MAX.       


Excerpted from THE SOUND OF THE FUTURE: The Coming Age of Voice Technology by Tobias Dengel with Karl Weber. Copyright © 2023. Available from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.


Some workplaces involve greater risks than others. Today’s technology-driven society sometimes multiplies the risks we face by giving ordinary people control over once-incredible amounts of power, in forms that range from tractor trailers to jet airplanes. People carrying out professional occupations that involve significant risks on a daily basis will also benefit from the safety edge that voice provides — as will the society that depends on these well-trained, highly skilled yet imperfect human beings.

When the Boeing 737 MAX airliner was rolled out in 2015, it featured a number of innovations, including distinctive split-tip winglets and airframe modifications that affected the jumbo jet’s aerodynamic characteristics. A critical launch goal for Boeing was to enable commercial pilots to fly the new plane without needing new certifications, since retraining pilots is very expensive for airlines. To achieve that goal, the airliner’s software included an array of ambitious new features, including many intended to increase safety by taking over control from the crew in certain situations. These included something called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was supposed to compensate for an excessive nose-up angle by adjusting the horizontal stabilizer to keep the aircraft from stalling— a complicated technical “hack” implemented by Boeing to avoid the larger cost involved in rewriting the program from the ground up.

The 737 MAX was a top seller right out of the gate. But what Boeing and its airline customers hadn’t realized was that the software was being asked to do things the pilots didn’t fully understand. As a result, pilots found themselves unable to interface in a timely fashion with the complex system in front of them. The ultimate result was two tragic crashes with 346 fatalities, forcing the grounding of the 737 MAX fleet and a fraud settlement that cost Boeing some $2.5 billion. Additional losses from cancelled aircraft orders, lowered stock value, and other damages have been estimated at up to $60 billion. 

These needless losses — financial and human — were caused, in large part, by small yet fatal failures of cockpit communication between people and machines. The pilots could tell that something serious was wrong, but the existing controls made it difficult for them to figure out what that was and to work with the system to correct the problem. As a result, in the words of investigative reporter Peter Robison, “the pilots were trying to retake control of the plane, so that the plane was pitching up and down over several minutes.” Based on his re-creation of what happened, Robison concludes, “it would have been terrifying for the people on the planes.”

When voice becomes a major interface in airliner cockpits, a new tool for preventing such disasters will be available. In traditional aviation, pilots receive commands like “Cleared Direct Casanova VOR” or “Intercept the ILS 3” via radio from dispatchers at air traffic control. After the pilots get this information, they must use their eyes and hands to locate and press a series of buttons to transmit the same commands to the aircraft. In a voice-driven world, that time-wasting, error-prone step will be eliminated. In the first stage of voice adoption, pilots will simply be able to say a few words without moving their eyes from the controls around them, and the plane will respond. According to Geoff Shapiro, a human factors engineer at the former Rockwell Collins Advanced Technology Center, this shift trims the time spent when entering simple navigational commands from half a minute to eight seconds — a huge improvement in circumstances when a few moments can be critical. In the second stage, once veteran pilots have recognized and accepted the power of voice, the plane will automatically follow the spoken instructions from air traffic control, merely asking the pilot to confirm them.

A voice-interface solution integrating the latest capabilities of voice-driven artificial intelligence can improve airline safety in several ways. It gives the system self-awareness and the ability to proactively communicate its state and status to pilots, thereby alerting them to problems even at moments when they might otherwise be distracted or inattentive. Using increasingly powerful voice-technology tools like automatic speech recognition and natural language understanding, it also allows the airplane’s control systems to process and act on conversational speech, making the implementation of pilot commands faster and more accurate than ever. It facilitates real-time communications linking the cockpit, air traffic control, the airline carrier, and maintenance engineers to remove inconsistencies in communication due to human indecision or misjudgment. In the near future, it may even be able to use emerging voice-tech tools such as voice biometrics and real-time sentiment analysis to determine stress levels being experienced by pilots —information that could be used to transmit emergency alerts to air traffic controllers and others on the ground.

Voice technology won’t eliminate all the traditional activities pilots are trained to perform. But in critical moments when the speed of response to messages from a control tower may spell the difference between survival and disaster, the use of a voice interface will prevent crashes and save lives. This is not a fantasy about the remote future. Today’s planes have all the electronics needed to make it possible. 

One field of aviation in which safety risks are especially intense is military flying. It’s also an arena in which voice-enabled aviation is being avidly pursued. Alabama-based Dynetics has received $12.3 million from DARPA, the Pentagon’s storied defense-technology division, to develop the use of AI in “high-intensity air conflicts.” The third phrase of the current three-phase research/implementation program involves a “realistic, manned-flight environment involving complex human-machine collaboration” — including voice communication. 

The US Air Force is not alone in pursuing this technological advantage. The next generation of the MiG-35, the highly advanced Russian fighter jet, will apparently feature a voice assistant to offer advice in high-pressure situations. Test pilot Dmitry Selivanov says, “We call her Rita, the voice communicant. Her voice remains pleasant and calm even if fire hits the engine. She does not talk all the time, she just makes recommendations if the plane approaches some restrictions. Hints are also provided during combat usage.”

Voice-controlled flying is also in development for civilian aircraft. Companies like Honeywell and Rockwell are designing voice interfaces for aviation, with an initial focus on reducing pilot workload around tedious tasks involving basic, repetitive commands like “Give me the weather at LAX and any critical weather en route.” More extensive and sophisticated use cases for voice tech in aviation are steadily emerging. Vipul Gupta is general manager of Honeywell Aerospace Avionics. He and his team are deeply focused on perfecting the technology of the voice cockpit, especially its response speed, which is a crucial safety feature. Their engineers have reduced the voice system’s average response time to 250 milliseconds, which means, in effect, that the system can react more quickly than a human pilot can.

Over time, voice-controlled aircraft systems will become commonplace in most forms of aviation. But in the short term, the most important use cases will be in general aviation, where single-pilot operators are notoriously overloaded, especially when operating in bad weather or congested areas. Having a “voice copilot” will ease those burdens and make the flying experience safer for pilot and passengers alike.

Voice-controlled aircraft are also likely to dominate the emerging field of urban air mobility, which involves the use of small aircraft for purposes ranging from cargo deliveries to sightseeing tours within city and suburban airspaces. New types of aircraft, such as electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOLs) are likely to dominate this domain, with the marketplace for eVTOLs expected to explode from nothing in 2022 to $1.75 billion in 2028. As this new domain of flight expands, experienced pilots will be in short supply, so the industry is now designing simplified cockpit systems, controlled by voice, that trained “operators” will be able to manage.

Vipul Gupta is bullish about the future of the voice-powered cockpit. “Eventually,” he says, “we’ll have a voice assistant where you will just sit in [the aircraft] and the passenger will say, ‘Hey, fly me there, take me there. And then the system does it.’”

As a licensed pilot with significant personal experience in the cock- pit, I suspect he will be right —eventually. As with most innovations, I believe it will take longer than the early adopters and enthusiasts believe. This is especially likely in a critical field like aviation, in which human trust issues and regulatory hurdles can take years to overcome. But the fact is that the challenges of voice-powered flight are actually simpler in many ways than those faced by other technologies, such as autonomous automobiles. For example, a plane cruising at 20,000 feet doesn’t have to deal with red lights, kids dashing into the street, or other drivers tailgating.

For this reason, I concur with the experts who say that we will have safe, effective voice-controlled planes sooner than autonomous cars. And once the technology is fully developed, the safety advantages of a system that can respond to spoken commands almost instantly in an emergency will be too powerful for the aviation industry to forgo.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Uber partners with LA taxi companies to expand its fleet

Uber announced Tuesday that it’s struck a deal with Los Angeles Yellow Cab to deploy taxi fleets across Southern California. The multi-year partnership, also extending to five other SoCal affiliates, will allow traditional yellow taxis to pick up Uber passengers. The collaboration between the strange bedfellows follows similar trials in New York City and San Francisco.

Uber describes the alliance as mutually beneficial for all parties. Taxi drivers, struggling to recover from pandemic losses while competing with ridesharing, get access to Uber referrals. Meanwhile, riders could see faster pickups. (They can opt out of yellow taxis in the app if they prefer typical ridesharing cars.) And, of course, Uber gains a greater supply of rides.

The partnership stretches down the SoCal coast to the Mexico border. It includes 1,200 vehicles from Los Angeles Yellow Cab, San Diego Yellow Cab, California Yellow Cab, Long Beach Yellow Cab, Fiesta Taxi Cooperative, Inc. and United Checker Cab. Onboarding for taxicab drivers in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties begins this week. Once fully onboarded, drivers can start accepting trips at UberX prices.

The unusual pairing follows years of contentiousness between ridesharing and traditional taxi businesses. The two sides have often been at war since the early 2010s when Uber and Lyft’s existence began threatening the taxi industry. Uber claims cab drivers who took ridesharing fares in the NYC and SF pilots raked in an extra $1,767 per month from those trips alone and earned 23.8% more on average than taxi drivers who eschewed Uber.

“We are thrilled to announce this partnership with Uber because it’s a clear win-win for drivers and riders,” said William Rouse, CEO of Yellow Cab of Los Angeles. “We anticipate that this partnership will have a positive impact for our driver-owners as the pandemic recovery continues. No longer will drivers have to worry about finding a fare during off peak times or getting a street hail back into the city when in the outer suburbs.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Joby Aviation's first production air taxi cleared for flight tests

Joby Aviation has been cleared by the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) to start flight tests on its first production prototype air taxi, the company wrote in a press release. It's a large step in the company's aim to start shipping the eVTOL aircraft (electric vertical takeoff and landing) to customers in 2024 and launch an air taxi service by 2025. 

"The aircraft will now undergo initial flight testing before being delivered to Edwards Air Force Base, California, where it will be used to demonstrate a range of potential logistics use cases," Joby wrote. 

The aircraft can take off and land like a helicopter, then tilt its six rotors horizontally and fly like an airplane at up to 200 MPH. It's designed to carry a pilot and four passengers over a distance up to 100 miles on a charge — enough range for most types of air taxi operations. At the same time, Joby claims it's nearly silent in cruise mode and 100 times quieter than conventional aircraft during takeoff and landing.

Joby's first production prototype recently rolled off the company's assembly line in Marina, California. The plant was built in partnership with Toyota, Joby's largest investor with a $394 million stake. Cementing that relationship, Joby announced that it was appointing Toyota North America CEO Tetsuo (Ted) Ogawa to the board of directors.

With the the FAA's special airworthiness certificate in hand, Joby can perform flight tests of full production aircraft, following tests with full-scale prototypes that began in 2017. In May last year, the company received another crucial permit, the FAA's Part 135 air carrier certificate for commercial operations. It recently teamed with Delta Air Lines to offer travel to and from airports, and its website shows a scenario of flying from downtown NYC to JFK airport in just seven minutes compared to 49 minutes in a car.

Now, Joby must clear the largest hurdle with full FAA type and production certification in order to take paying passengers on commercial flights. That's likely about 18 months away, aerospace engineer and Vertical Flight Society director Mike Hirschberg told New Scientist. Its first customer would be the US Air Force, as part of a $131 million contract under the military's Agility Prime program, with deliveries set for 2024.

Alll that puts the company tantalizingly close to delivering a true air taxi service, something that has eluded numerous other manufacturers to date. Last year, the Kittyhawk aircraft backed by Larry Page shut down, and other companies like Ehang, Archer, Volocopter and even Airbus aren't as far along as Joby. "This first aircraft coming off our pilot manufacturing line is a really, really big deal for the company," Joby CEO JoeBen Bevirt told TechCrunch

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

United is putting 4K displays and Bluetooth on its planes

United Airlines has struck a deal with Panasonic Avionics that could make flying in economy more bearable. No, it will not magically make the seats wider or the leg room bigger, but it will distract you with a larger, sharper in-flight entertainment display and — some will perhaps find this even more exciting — Bluetooth. The airline has announced that it's installing almost 300,000 units of Panasonic Avionics' Astrova in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens on select new Boeing 787 and Airbus A321XLR aircraft. 

They're seatback displays that use 4K OLED technology, which promises sharper image quality and better contrast ratio than a lot of other IFE systems. The company says Astrova can also provide high fidelity 3D spatial audio through its latest Bluetooth technology. Yep, you won't need to use wired headphones anymore or bring one of those Bluetooth dongles just so you could use your wireless earbuds. Astrova also comes with USB-C ports capable of charging your phones and tablets with 100 watts of DC power. 

As Aviation Week notes, the Boeing 787 and Airbus A321XLR planes are part of United's international fleet, but the airline will reportedly equip its domestic planes with Astrova IFE systems, as well. The displays will be installed under the United Next program, which aims to put a seatback in-flight display at every seat. United plans to provide first class passengers access to 13-inch displays and passengers in economy with 10-inch IFE screens. 

In their announcement, the companies said their agreement will allow United to upgrade the Astrova displays over the coming years. The IFE system uses a modular architecture with a removable peripheral bar that makes it easy to add newer technologies and update its Bluetooth or charging stations. No upgrade will be happening anytime soon, though — the airline isn't scheduled to start installing the in-flight entertainment systems until 2025. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Travelers used to catch helicopter taxis between Chicago airports

We’ve all been there: sitting in the back of a cab as it crawls through downtown traffic, the clock on the dash mocking you with its inexorable march towards a missed final boarding call and non-refundable ticket fees. Racing to make your flight is an experience nearly as old as commercial aviation itself — and one which has seen repeated solutions attempted throughout the years. Today, companies like Uber and Hyundai or United Airlines and Archer are working to get fleets of eVTOL aircraft to serve as short-hop air taxis, ferrying travelers from city centers to airports while avoiding the mess and hassle of ground-based traffic. In the ‘60s, companies like Chicago Helicopter Airways (CHA) just used a bunch of repurposed US Navy helicopters whose rotors almost never catastrophically failed. Almost.

Following WW2, the US government found itself with a massive surplus of military aircraft — we’re talking North of 150,000 individual planes, helicopters and sundry whirlybirds that all needed somewhere to go that wasn’t storage or a scrap yard. At the same time, an emergent middle class got the chicken in every pot and car in every driveway it was promised, along with all of the traffic and congestion that that particular American dream creates. So, in the early 1950s, the Federal government launched a series of grant programs to promote commuting via helicopter as an intra-city alternative to driving, simultaneously addressing both issues.

The CHA began its existence in post-war America 1948, as a regional mail delivery service operating in greater Chicagoland with a fleet of Sikorsky S-58C and H-34A Choctaw helicopters, but switched to carrying human passengers from 1956 to 1963. Its five-stop route moved between its home base in Winnetka, Illinois and O’Hare and Midway airports, the now defunct Meigs Field, and Gary, Indiana.

For $5 in 1962 money (or just under $50 today) travelers could get from Winnetka at the North end of the city to Terminal 3 at O’Hare, and do it in under ten minutes. Or for $11, sightseers could reserve space aboard a city-wide “Complete Triangle Flight” helicopter tour of Chicago. According to digitized pamphlets archived at TimetableImages, anyone flying to or from “Europe, South or Central America, Alaska or across the Pacific,” on Air France, BOAC Lufthansa, Mexicana, Northwest, PAA or TWA were entitled to a free helo-transfer between Midway and O’Hare.

At its peak in 1960, CHA operated 126 flights and carried 6,000 passengers daily. However, that success did not last long past the tragedy of Flight 698. On July 20th, 1960, 11 passengers and two crew members took off from O’Hare airport, headed for Midway under clear skies. Minutes into the journey, disaster struck when the main rotor failed and came apart. The crew attempted an emergency landing but were thwarted when the tail rotor subsequently broke off and the aircraft nose-dived into Forest Home Cemetery. It burst into flames, killing all 13 aboard.

Just three years later in 1963, CHA’s business had dropped off by half with just 3,000 people opting for helicopter rides to the airport. By 1966, the federal government’s grant programs had run their course and funding quickly dried up, effectively putting an end to CHA’s operations. The company attempted a comeback with limited service in 1969 but shuttered again for good in 1974. 

The CHA wasn't alone in its air commute aspirations. It was joined by similar services in Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC and the San Francisco Bay Area. European cities launched their own services as well including Paris, Brussels, Dooseldorf and between the UK's Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

Clearly the issue was that the aircraft of the day only had a measly single rotor to provide lift and placed it at risk of major mechanical failure. That’s not an issue with modern VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft, such as the six-rotor Bell Nexus, which was to be used in Uber’s now defunct air taxi service, a similarly-specced offering from Volocopter, or the five-rotor version that Boeing tested in 2019.

However, finding reliable funding remains a challenge — even Larry Page’s pet VTOL project, Kitty Hawk, ceased operations in 2022 — which has resulted in much of the technology’s development concentrating amidst existing aerospace corporations. Airbus is working on a VTOL of its own, as is Honda, while United announced plans to buy 500 units outright from VTOL maker Eve Air Mobility to jumpstart its fleet. Joby Aviation, which purchased Uber’s air taxi business in 2020, just received significant investment from Delta as well.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

United and Archer will open an air taxi route to Chicago’s O’Hare airport in 2025

Archer Aviation and United Airlines announced a partnership today to launch a commercial air taxi route in Chicago. The companies plan to open the flight path between downtown and O’Hare International Airport in 2025.

Besides being United’s headquarters and largest hub, Chicago's airport commute makes it an ideal testbed for flying taxis. For example, the drive to or from O’Hare, in the western suburb of Rosemont, can take anywhere from 35 minutes to over an hour, depending on traffic; even in one of the city’s elevated trains, it can take around 45 minutes. But Archer estimates a flight in one of its air taxis will only take 10 minutes to travel from O’Hare to its destination at a downtown helipad. The program will initially be limited to the mainline O’Hare / downtown route, but the companies eventually plan to add smaller paths to surrounding communities.

Archer describes the upcoming route as “cost competitive” for passengers without going into specifics. But even if it’s initially limited to deep-pocketed business travelers, the program should be good for the environment. Archer’s air taxis use electric motors and batteries and don’t produce emissions. “This exciting new technology will further decarbonize our means of transportation, taking us another step forward in our fight against climate change,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “I’m pleased that Chicago residents will be among the first in the nation to experience this innovative, convenient form of travel.”

The partnership is the latest in United’s aggressive investments in flying taxis. Last year, the airline ordered at least 200 electric flying taxis from Eve Air Mobility; that followed a $10 million deposit it placed with Archer the month prior.

In addition to Chicago’s (ground-based) taxis and ride shares, the city has a robust public transportation system built around elevated trains and buses, the latter of which the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has committed to converting to electric by 2040. (The CTA already deploys 23 electric buses.) If all goes according to plan, the flight path will help decrease emissions and traffic congestion, something most Chi-town residents can get behind.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Waymo is starting driverless taxi tests in Los Angeles

Late last year, Waymo secured a Driverless Pilot permit from the state of California, bringing the alphabet-owned brand one step closer to launching its autonomous taxi service in the state. Now, Waymo is already expanding its service area, announcing plans to begin testing driverless cars in Los Angeles. The company tells Engadget that the test will mark the first time that fully autonomous cars will roam the streets of LA, and that thanks to successful tests in San Francisco, its been able to roll out autonomous drivers in new cities with "little-to-no on-board engineering work."

That doesn't mean the company is ready to launch its Waymo One taxi service in California, however. The LA test will likely follow the same course as Waymo's fleet in San Francisco: a limited number of vehicles only available to riders in the Waymo Research Trusted Tester program. Waymo didn't have any details to share regarding when the full driverless taxi service will be available to customers in Los Angeles, but it probably hinges on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issuing the firm a Driverless Deployment permit. Until it can clear that final legal hurdle, Waymo's paid taxi service will remain exclusive to Phoenix AZ. So far, GM's Cruise robotaxi service is the only company permitted to charge for driverless rides in the state, so long as those rides take place during daylight hours.

Following a rigorous cycle of validation and safety readiness evaluation, @Waymo is starting fully-autonomous (no human driver) testing in LA. Thrilled by the data confirming, once again, how well our ML-based 5th-gen Driver generalizes across cities!

— Dmitri Dolgov (@dmitri_dolgov) February 27, 2023

Waymo didn't give any specific dates for when the test will begin, but noted that its 5th-generation Jaguar I-Pace cars will start rider-only testing in Santa Monica, and only outside of rush-hour. Then, the program will expand in accordance with Waymo's safety framework before eventually launching to consumers. Oh, and in case you were worried that the cars might make LA traffic even worse, the company promises that its continuously updating its self-driving software to avoid stalling traffic, as one stopped Waymo vehicle recently did in San Francisco.