When Nobody Is Behind the Wheel in Car-Obsessed Los Angeles

Los Angeles, to drivers, has never been for the faint of heart. A land where most cannot fathom life without wheels, it offers a daily parade of frustration: congestion, accidents, construction, road rage, tedium.

Every transplant has a story about learning to adapt.

“You get in the rhythm of matching everyone else’s energy,” said Tamara Siemering, 30, an actor who relocated from Sacramento a year ago. The difference in car culture here, she said, is wild.

“It feels very self-centered,” she said. “Everyone is like, ‘I’ve got somewhere to be, out of my way.’ There’s not a lot of cooperative driving — there’s a lot of honking at each other and speeding and zooming around.”

Now joining the fray is an entirely new type of motorist — one that touts itself as measured and unemotional, respectful and obedient. Which is to say, there is no driver at all.

Waymo, a fleet of autonomous taxis that is already operating in San Francisco and Phoenix, has begun carrying passengers across a small swath of Los Angeles County. The white Jaguar sport utility vehicles — notable for their spinning black domes that cover an array of cameras and sensors — have been cleared for commercial rides, with free trips available to a select few. It will soon offer a paid service with prices comparable to those charged by Uber and Lyft.

Waymo vehicles, which rely on an array of cameras and sensors, have been cleared for commercial rides in Los Angeles.

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