Waymo, Google's self-driving project, is finally ready to leave the nest. After a messy legal battle with Uber involving an alleged case of data theft, Waymo is moving on from its bleak past and heading out full-force into a future where driverless cars freely roam the road.
The company has just announced that it's launching a commercial driverless taxi service in the Phoenix area in Arizona. Although like any nascent technology, Waymo's service comes with a few caveats.
Waymo One, as the service is called, won't be available to everyone. Moreover, the company says it will have trained professionals behind the wheel during rides so they can take over in case of emergencies. To note, Waymo already has driverless vehicles on public roads in Phoenix.
Who Will Get To Ride?
Waymo plans to first invite Phoenix residents who are part of its early rider program. The program, which launched in 2017, was designed to give a select few the ability to use an app to hail a self-driving vehicle. It had garnered more than 400 participants, according to Waymo's last figures, as TechCrunch reports.
Waymo will continue to operate the early rider program so the select group can provide Waymo ongoing insights, says CEO John Krafcik. Eventually, though, they'll be transitioned to the Waymo One service.
"They'll help test early features before graduating to Waymo One where new capabilities can be accessed at scale by the public over time," said Krafcik in a blog post over at Medium, calling the service the "next step in our self-driving journey."
Very much unlike the early rider program, Waymo One users will actually be able to publicly share their impressions about the service. More importantly, Waymo One will also be the first proper introduction to driverless technology for a lot of people estranged to the concept, since riders will be given a chance to bring along a friend or a family member — who aren't part of the program at all — for the ride. Riders will get price estimates before they accept the ride, which are based on factors such as distance and the time it takes to get to their destination.
The service will be available every day non-stop beginning in Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, and Gilbert. Eventually, the service will expand into new neighborhoods and suburbs in the greater Phoenix area. No word yet from Waymo as to when the service will arrive in other states.