A Waymo van arrives to pick up passengers in Mesa, Arizona on April 7, 2021.

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Waymo’s autonomous transportation service is expanding to San Francisco.

The autonomous vehicles unit of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, said on Wednesday it had started ferrying employees in Jaguar I-Pace electric SUVs without a human backup driver. Previously, the company tested vehicles with a safety driver behind the wheel, just in case.

Waymo did not say when it might offer self-driving rides to the public in San Francisco. The company has been using self-driving minivans without human reinforcements to transport passengers in the East Valley of Phoenix metro area since 2020.

Waymo also announced Wednesday that it will soon expand driverless rides to downtown Phoenix. The program will begin by transporting Waymo employees with safety drivers in the vehicles, with the goal of opening up these rides to residents who will join a “trust tester” program shortly thereafter. No date was given for when humans would be removed from vehicles.

The tests in San Francisco come as competitor Cruise LLC, a subsidiary of General Motors, seeks a permit to charge for fully self-driving rides in the city. Cruise operates a small fleet of self-driving vehicles that it opened to the general public in early February. GM expects to get a permit to charge passengers for self-driving rides this year.

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