Waymo, Google’s former autonomous driving project owned by parent company Alphabet, launches commercial robotaxi service in Phoenix area
Dubbed the Waymo One, this milestone for the company and the nascent autonomous driving technology industry comes with caveats.
The Waymo One self-driving car service and accompanying app will not be available to everyone. And for now, the company says it will have Waymo-trained test pilots behind the wheel (although the company already has driverless vehicles on public roads in Phoenix).
Waymo will first invite residents of Phoenix who are part of its Early Rider program, which was designed to give an approved group of people the ability to use an app to flag down an autonomous vehicle. The Early Rider program, launched in April 2017, had over 400 participants the last time Waymo shared numbers on the program.Waymo will invite some of the early adopters to switch to the Waymo One service. According to CEO John Krafcik, the company will continue to operate the Early Rider program as a way for a select group to give Waymo ongoing information.
“They will help test the first features before moving on to Waymo An area where new capabilities can be widely accessed by the public over time, âhe wrote in blog post on Medium.
Despite these lockdowns, Waymo One is progress and signals the company’s rise to a larger service open to the public.
Unlike the Early Rider program, Waymo One users will be able to publicly share their impressions of the service. It also opens the door to the public as Waymo One users will be able to bring a friend or family member who was not on the Early Rider program.
The service will be available in a defined area in Phoenix 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from Chandler, Tempe, Mesa and Gilbert, the company said. The service will slowly expand to new neighborhoods and suburbs in the greater Phoenix area.
Passengers will see the price estimates before accepting the trip based on factors such as time and distance to their destination.
Passengers will be able to ask questions through the app or an on-board console that gives them instant access to a Waymo employee.
Here is a video that markets the service.
Waymo has been moving towards a commercial service in Phoenix since it began testing autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans in suburbs like Chandler in 2016 and expanded the following year with its Early Rider program. Waymo removed employees and passengers from its test fleet in 2017, sending empty self-driving minivans through the streets of the greater Phoenix.
In May of this year, Waymo began allowing some of the first drivers to hail an autonomous van without a human test driver behind the wheel. Most recently, the company launched a public transportation program in Phoenix focused on transporting people to bus stops and train and light rail stations.
In October, Waymo was granted the first license in California to begin driverless testing on public roads.