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What to know about self-driving cars in Austin

We’re giving you the down low on which autonomous vehicle companies are driving Austin’s streets and how you can take a ride with them.

A driverless Cruise car takes a trip through Downtown Austin.

You need an invite code to take a Cruise ride, but you can join the waitlist for a code of your own.

Photo by ATXtoday

It may be Halloween season, but it’s not a ghost driving that car.

About 125 autonomous vehicles are currently operating in Austin — and chances are, you’ve seen one on the roads.

As one of the top tech hubs in the US, the Capital City was tapped as one of the prime markets for testing out driverless cars. Here’s what to know.

How do autonomous vehicles work?

Autonomous vehicles, or AVs, have been around for decades, but didn’t become legal in the state of Texas until 2017. Today, all AVs are licensed with the state and undergo routine inspections.

Every AV operates differently, but most operate using cameras, radar, and lidar sensors, in addition to GPS.


Waymo, currently in the process of rolling out driverless cars in Austin, uses GPS maps and sensor data to operates its vehicles.

Photo via Waymo

Which companies have AVs in Austin?

There are more than a dozen companies either currently operating or planning to launch AVs in Austin. Some — like Torc, Waabi, and Kodiak — are geared toward trucking and freighting, and others like Gatik and Starship operate delivery services.

Then, there are passenger AVs, meant to transport humans. The businesses working to offer this in ATX include:

How can I ride in an AV?

First thing’s first, although the safety of autonomous vehicles have been significantly tested, they are still involved in accidents, including some reported in Austin.

Cruise, which is currently offering public rides to Austinites with an invite code (you can join a waitlist through the app to get a code of your own) is under investigation for two recent incidents. State law currently prevents cities from regulating AVs.

Lyft also offers autonomous rides when available through its normal app service.

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