Waymo plans to resume testing self-driving vehicles in Arizona on May 11, nearly two months after the COVID-19 outbreak suspended its self-driving taxi service,media outlet The Verge reported. But some of the company’s back-up drivers worry that Waymo may resume service prematurely.
In a blog post, the company said it was taking a “phased approach” to getting vehicles back on the road. Waymo said it had redesigned its vehicle library in Arizona to comply with social segregation guidelines, including limiting the number of people allowed into the vehicle at any time. Employees will receive personal protective items such as masks and gloves. Moreover, the company’s facilities and the company’s self-driving fleet will be cleaned several times a day.
In addition, employees undergo a temperature check every day when they go to work. For COVID-19 high-risk employees, or employees with child care problems, you can choose to work from home. During the test, each vehicle will be equipped with only one back-up driver to comply with the social isolation guidelines. But the company will not be fully operational. Waymo’s ride service, Waymo One, will continue to be suspended. Waymo said it would not resume testing in other cities, such as San Francisco, Detroit and Los Angeles, until the company was confident it was safe.
“We are taking a thoughtful and cautious approach to getting our driverless business back on the road. The company said in a blog post. But the company’s operations team, consisting mainly of employees of Waymo’s third-party contractor, a French transportation company called Transdev North America, does not all believe in the company’s commitment to safety.
“The measures they’ve taken are seemingly extraordinary, ” said one Arizona backup driver. “But at the same time, Arizona has not seen a drop in the number of new confirmed cases in 14 days. “
There have been nearly 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arizona, and 450 people have died, AZ Central reported. Doug Ducey, the state’s governor, has announced a phased reopening of the state’s stores, including salons, restaurants and coffee shops.
A member of Waymo’s operations team said he was concerned that Waymo would try to resume testing prematurely. Most of the tests in California were done in cars by two employees. Unlike Arizona, few of the company’s california operations have been trained to ride the company’s self-driving vehicles alone.
“It feels like they’re going to (Arizona) as a control group to decide if they can push us back,” the driver said. “Arizona always gets a test policy first, but that seems to be too risky because the number of deaths and cases is increasing. “
As The Verge previously reported, The Waymo’s relationship with its operators has been strained since it signed with Transdev last year. According to half of workers interviewed by The Verge last month, vacations have been cut, health insurance has not improved and workplace safety issues have not been addressed. Drivers also say they are increasingly nervous about picking up passengers amid the growing COVID-19 outbreak, which has exposed the differences between drivers and full-time employees following Google’s spin-off.
But Waymo continues to pay workers despite a two-month hiatised shutdown, while other self-driving vehicle companies have laid off a number of operations. One driver said the company appeared to be listening to employees’ concerns about the premature resumption of testing and ride-on services.
” (Waymo One) was a big sticking point for drivers in the beginning,” the driver said, “so hopefully they’ll get the message and not think about it until we reach the new normal.” “