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January 18, 2023

Why I Ride with Waymo: Maya

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Editor’s note: Maya isn’t just any Waymo One rider. In her 300+ rides with Waymo, she’s kept a detailed spreadsheet of every one so she can track changes and improvements to the service over time. Dozens of these rides have been rider-only trips, which we began offering to San Franciscans at the end of last year. Check out our Q&A with her below and this video to hear more from this seasoned Waymo One rider.

Maya, thanks for sharing your story with us. We’d love to hear more about who you are and your background with Waymo.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity! I have been a rider for just over a year now, and ride 3-5 times a week. I use the service for a variety of reasons - commuting, social and entertainment events and running errands. I’ve even kept a detailed spreadsheet of my rides which has been cool to look at over time. It helps me to recall updates in software, specific experiences, and more.

That’s awesome! What made you want to get involved with Waymo initially and how did you originally hear about us?

I saw it in the news and wanted to experience the technology. A lot of new things are controversial at first, so I was excited to try it out and see for myself. From my first ride through winding Presidio roads around midnight, I was hooked.

What’s your favorite aspect of Waymo One?

My rides with Waymo are consistently safe. It is almost as if I hail the exact same vehicle each time. The Waymo Driver is programmed to prioritize safety by following driving laws, which helps me feel secure.

What do you like to do during your rides?

Even after 300 rides, I love to observe my Waymo doing its thing! It may be something more common, like seamless navigation through a tricky intersection, or something surprising, like the time my vehicle made a tight u-turn on a narrow hill (ride 155)!

After 300 rides, is there anything you would change or like to see improved with the service?

In the past, I spent too long trying to cast my music to my Waymo! However, I realized I can do this with Google Assistant and have my own music playing within a block now.

You've also now had the chance to take some rider-only trips - what has that experience been like? Exciting, a bit nerve-racking, boring?

It is truly exciting! So far, over 50 of my rides have been rider-only. I think about how every driver has a style, and over time I got to know how the Waymo Driver operates - the choices it makes, the way it turns, how patient it is. When it was time to take my first rider-only trip, I was over the moon! Now I have taken them in the daytime and at night. Since I know what to expect, I feel totally safe because it is programmed to follow driving laws and rules of the road. The technology means it doesn't have emotions about how other drivers act, it recognizes a lot of things I would miss, and it anticipates potential problems. I have tried sitting in the back, but I prefer the front for rider-only.

How have your friends and family reacted to you riding with an autonomous driver?

To be honest, some of them are tired of hearing about it! It is natural to be skeptical, but once you experience the Waymo Driver, you get used to it. Everyone should know how safe it feels to always follow traffic rules.

Are you excited for an autonomous future?

Absolutely. When the call for Trusted Testers was originally made in San Francisco, I signed up on a whim. It was very exciting to be invited. Since then, riding with Waymo has truly become something I enjoy and look forward to. I am an educator, so autonomous vehicles just weren't on my radar, but now I follow Waymo on social media and love reading academic articles about the technology.

Any final thoughts to share?

There is so much joy and awe with my rides—and that comes from feeling safe. After observing safety protocols, support for riders, and the Waymo Driver in action, I love how careful and thoughtful your engineers, designers and experts are.