The Evolution of LA’s Robotaxi Industry: A Timeline

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Waymo's autonomously driven Jaguar I-PACE electric SUV.
Courtesy of Waymo

There’s no shortage of companies testing autonomous cars in Los Angeles and everyday it seems more enter the city with the goal of addressing its transportation needs through self-driving rideshares.

See our timeline below for key developments in L.A.’s robotaxi industry, starting with the launch of Motional’s L.A. facility and moving through the most recent developments in companies looking to bring robotaxi service to SoCal.


September 2016: Boston-based robotaxi startup Motional opens a facility in Santa Monica.

September 2017: In a precursor to its entry into the robotaxi race, Lyft begins pondering how to make L.A.’s streets less congested. The ride-hailing startup links with local design firms Perkins+Will and Nelson/Nygaard to imagine a Wilshire Blvd. with fewer lanes, including two for autonomous buses. To date, however, the idea remains just a talking point.

October 2019: Google-owned autotaxi startup Waymo begins using human drivers to map roads across L.A. to safely pave the way for autonomous cars to follow.

May 2020: Mercedez-Benz and German engineering firm Bosch join forces to develop a ride-hailing app with autonomous Mercedez-Benz cars, with the goal of expanding the service into cities across the U.S.

August 2020:Axios reports that L.A. Department of Transportation General Manager Seleta Reynolds tells a panel (sponsored by Motional) that the city is working on methods to make autonomous driving safer for pedestrians and noted LADOT is considering adding a “proactive pedestrian detection” system at Metro Red Line stations.

November 2020: California’s Public Utilities Commission rules that autonomous taxis can charge customers for rides, opening the door for autonomous vehicle operators to gain profits. The agency also demands participating companies share a ton of data with the state, including information about ride locations, accessibility and miles traveled.

August 2021: Motional expands its office in Santa Monica and doubles its staff. The company also inks an agreement with Lyft to launch a fully driverless service by 2023.

September 2021: Computer firm HP and San Francisco-based autonomous trucking firm Embark link to create a pilot program to test a self-driving trucking service in L.A.

November 2021: By this point, the California Department of Motor Vehicles says it’s issued seven permits to companies exclusively for driverless testing in L.A.

Also, San Diego-based autonomous vehicle startup Zoox hires former Pasadena-based NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Supervisor Olivier Toupet as its principal software engineer.

December 2021: Uber links with Motional to deploy a pilot program to test using self-driving robots and cars for food deliveries through Uber Eats.

February 2022: Ford-backed self-driving car company Argo AI opens an office in Los Angeles as part of its long-term plan to become a player in the robotaxi industry.

This same month, DMV data reveals that autonomous vehicle companies doubled the mileage of test rides from roughly 2 million miles to 4.1 million miles in California from the year prior.

Also in February, Culver City-based Parallel Systems receives a $4.4 million grant from the federal government to fund developments of its self-driving, battery-powered freight cars for the rail industry.

March 2022: Mercedez-Benz and Bosch debut a feature in a new 2022 EQS 580 luxury sedan that lets the car drive and park itself at a hotel in Downtown L.A.

April 2022: Tesla (not L.A.-based, but worth mentioning since the firm led the charge towards electric vehicles) CEO Elon Musk says during its Q1 earnings call that the company is aiming to produce robotaxis by 2024.

Also this month – Bay Area-based startup Nuro gains a toehold in L.A. as it begins mapping the area. The Google-backed company is building a fleet of vehicles that are autonomous and electric and is not yet fully deployed in L.A.

October 2022: Motional announces a partnership with Uber and Hyundai, which will see its self-driving tech ported into Hyundai’s electric IONIQ 5 cars that are on the Uber network. Motional promises customers can use Uber to hail self-driving rideshares by the end of the year.

Later in the month, Waymo says it will select L.A. as the next market for launching its 24/7 driverless ridesharing service.

This is a developing story and this timeline will be updated as more information is available.

Have a tip? Contact Samson Amore at samsonamore@dot.LA.

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