Oscar De las salas, an architect at Gensler in Phoenix, first came to Arizona 25 years ago from Spain to research and write about the iconic American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
“He was a visionary of the future of cities in America,” Oscar explains.
Oscar is constantly thinking about the future of cities – from his work at Gensler where the topic is a focus, to being a commissioner on the Sister Cities Board of the City of Phoenix, which recently welcomed its newest sister city Medellín, Colombia, which was a proud moment for Oscar, who was born and raised in Colombia.
As a long-time Phoenix resident, Oscar was excited to take his first ride with Waymo One, an autonomous ride-hailing company serving more than 225 square miles in Phoenix. The autonomous driving technology company Waymo has operated in the area since 2016 and first began offering fully autonomous rides to the public in 2020.
“I would have never imagined that – in the city I decided to call my home – I would have [autonomous driving] as part of my day-to-day life in midtown Phoenix,” Oscar says.
I would have never imagined that – in the city I decided to call my home – I would have [autonomous driving] as part of my day-to-day life in midtown Phoenix.
For his first ride, Oscar decided to travel to Barrio Cafe for lunch.
“We have been talking about autonomous vehicles as part of the new wave of mobility and it was great to be able to have first-hand experience of this technology in Phoenix.”
Rachel Carraway, a marketing specialist at Gensler, accompanied Oscar on the Waymo ride. She says she enjoyed seeing the juxtaposition of historic hotels and the modern Waymo vehicle as the car passed through the cityscape.
“I liked the aspect of being able to see the city,” Rachel says, adding she loved the possibility of discovering something unknown. “It gave me a chance to look out the window and see everything. I passed the Barrio Cafe many times but I never thought to come in.”
Oscar says he enjoyed how Waymo took routes he might not have taken: “You get to see the city differently.”
Rachel says she thought the most interesting part of the ride was imagining how cities will look in the future – as school children outside a local school gazed at the vehicle in astonishment as it drove by.
She says she sees Waymo as a complement to the city of the future where technology can make getting around a city less stressful.
"Making travel a lot simpler by leveraging technology is a key part of the future of cities," says Rachel. "The future of cities is creating ease through advances in technology that become part of our everyday lives."
Making travel a lot simpler by leveraging technology is a key part of the future of cities. The future of cities is creating ease through advances in technology that become part of our everyday lives.
Waymo’s autonomous driving technology is designed to carry out all the tasks of a human driver while applying road rules, staying constantly vigilant, and being conscientious of other road users. And with over one million miles of driving experience without any reported injuries, Waymo is already helping realize the vision of future cities as more people get from place to place safely, no matter which mode of transportation they choose.
Oscar says he believes autonomous vehicles can offer people a safe way to get around, without depending on anyone else, whether they need a designated driver, do not want to or cannot drive themselves.
“The experience was seamless and it was great to be able to focus on the conversation with Rachel" Oscar says.
Rachel added "With the car doing the driving, we were able to sit back and enjoy the ride."
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