Waymo’s completely autonomous cars are now picking up passengers in downtown Phoenix, five months after the Alphabet-owned business extended its service area to encompass the city’s denser, more complicated districts.
Since early 2017, Waymo has been testing its cars in many Phoenix suburbs, including Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, and Gilbert. It also runs Waymo One, a commercial ride-hailing service that uses a combination of cars with and without safety drivers. Earlier this year, the firm extended its service area to encompass downtown Phoenix.
The business debuted its Trusted Tester program last year, which is essentially a rebranded version of the early rider program it operated in suburban Phoenix. Customers that want to use Waymo’s robotaxis sign up for a waitlist and, if authorized, sign nondisclosure agreements in order to have access to the company’s early technology.
These people may now ride in Waymo’s completely autonomous cars in downtown Phoenix. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego was one of the first passengers to test these “rider only” cars, saying in a Waymo video that she thinks the service would make Phoenix a “more inclusive city.”
Eventually, the service will include normal customers who will be free to comment openly (and post on social media) about their experiences with Waymo’s autonomous cars, just as they do in the Phoenix suburbs. This may lead to unpleasant headlines, such as when an autonomous Waymo vehicle became stuck at an intersection in Chandler, causing the firm to dispatch a roadside service crew to extricate it.
Waymo is also on the verge of launching a driverless ridesharing service in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, but the firm has yet to obtain final clearance to charge customers for such journeys.
Here’s a list of the company’s current deployments, as per Waymo:
- Downtown Phoenix: Now offering paid rider-only trips to Waymo employees and Trusted Testers.
- Phoenix Sky Harbor: Currently offering trips from downtown Phoenix to the airport for Waymo employees, with an autonomous specialist in the driver’s seat.
- San Francisco: Currently testing rider-only trips to Waymo employees and paid trips to Trusted Testers with an autonomous specialist in the driver’s seat.
- Phoenix East Valley: Currently offering rider-only trips to members of the public.
Waymo maintains that it is the only business delivering completely autonomous public journeys in numerous locations — the crucial term being “multiple cities.” Cruise, a competitor AV business sponsored by General Motors, offers paid autonomous trips in Downtown San Francisco, but only at night.
Waymo’s expansion of its driverless service to Phoenix reflects the company’s increasing confidence in its cars’ ability to operate safely and effectively in more crowded metropolitan situations. Cruise likes to point out that it is only focused on large cities like San Francisco, as opposed to Waymo’s strategy of beginning in dry, flat, sunny, and less congested regions like Chandler. Those criticisms are likely to lose traction in the future.