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

U.S.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.

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