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As Waymo resumes self-driving tests, backup drivers are still worried about the virus



Waymo is planning to renew testing its autonomous autos in Arizona on Could 11th, practically two months after pausing its robotaxi service because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However a few of the firm’s backup drivers are anxious that Waymo could also be dashing again into service too shortly.

In a blog post, the corporate mentioned it was taking a “tiered strategy” to returning its autos to the street. Waymo says it has redesigned its car depots in Arizona to adapt with social distancing pointers, together with limiting the variety of those that shall be allowed inside at any given time. Workers will obtain private protecting gear, like face masks and gloves. And the services and the corporate’s fleet of autonomous autos shall be cleaned a number of occasions a day.

As well as, workers will obtain temperature checks when arriving for work every day. And workers who’re at excessive threat for COVID-19, or who’ve little one care points, can decide to make money working from home. Every car will solely function one backup driver throughout testing to adjust to social distancing pointers.

However the firm gained’t be totally operational. Waymo’s ride-hailing service, Waymo One, will stay on pause. And Waymo says it gained’t resume testing in different cities like San Francisco, Detroit, and Los Angeles till the corporate is satisfied it’s secure.

“We’re taking a considerate and measured strategy in direction of bringing our driving operations again on the street,” the corporate mentioned in a weblog submit.

However the firm’s operations workforce, which is basically comprised of workers who work for Waymo’s third-party contractor — a French transit firm referred to as Transdev North America — isn’t all satisfied of the corporate’s dedication to security.

“The measures they’re taking appear above and past on paper,” mentioned one Arizona-based backup driver. “However on the similar time, Arizona hasn’t seen 14 days of recent case decline but both.”

There have been virtually 10,000 circumstances of COVID-19 in Arizona, and 450 deaths, according to AZ Central. The state’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey announced recently the phased reopening of the state’s companies, together with salons, eating places, and low outlets.

One member of Waymo’s operations workforce, who is predicated on the firm’s Mountain View, California headquarters, expressed concern that Waymo will attempt to resume testing too early. Most the take a look at rides in California are executed with two workers within the car. Not like Arizona, only a few of the corporate’s California ops workforce is educated to trip within the firm’s autonomous autos by themselves.

“It seems like they’re utilizing [Arizona] as a management group to determine if they’ll push us again in,” mentioned the motive force. “Arizona has all the time gotten take a look at insurance policies and whatnot first, however this looks as if method too massive of a threat because the variety of deaths and circumstances remains to be rising.”

As The Verge has beforehand reported, pressure is excessive between Waymo and its operation employees because the firm signed a contract with Transdev final yr. Trip time was lower, medical insurance didn’t enhance, and problems with office security went unaddressed, in response to a half-dozen staff who spoke to The Verge for a narrative final month. And simply final week, drivers mentioned they have been more and more nervous about selecting up passengers amid the rising COVID-19 pandemic, and that the outbreak is exposing divisions between drivers and full-time workers on the Google spinoff.

However Waymo has continued to pay its staff regardless of two months of downtime, whereas different self-driving corporations have lower their operations employees. The Arizona-based driver mentioned the corporate seems to be listening to worker issues about dashing too shortly again into testing and ride-hailing.

“[Waymo One] was an enormous sticking level with drivers at first of this,” the motive force mentioned, “so hopefully they obtained the message and don’t even contemplate it till we’re at no matter our new regular is.”

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