Waymo is opening up its fully driverless robo-taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona, to more people as the driverless-car company continues to edge toward the wide-scale launch of autonomous ridesharing services.
Born out of the Google self-driving program that launched in 2009, Alphabet-owned Waymo has been testing its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivan and other vehicles in a number of states, with a 100-square-mile area in Phoenix seeing the most activity for testing and exploratory ridesharing services, the first of which launched at the end of 2018.
Up to now, the robo-taxi service in Phoenix has only been available to select riders via the company’s Waymo One program. While most Waymo vehicles have a safety driver behind the wheel, a smaller set of riders have been able to take trips in vehicles with nobody behind the wheel — known as “fully driverless” — with such rides forming around 10% of all of its up-to-2,000-a-week driverless ridesharing trip.
This week, however, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said the company is opening up its fully driverless service to all Waymo One riders, paving the way for a dramatic uptick in the number of Waymo rides that have no safety driver on board.
Waymo One riders will be able to start taking friends and family on their trips, too. The company also plans to let more members of the public sign up to the service via its smartphone app, with both moves serving to bring the driverless experience to even more people.
“We expect our new fully driverless service to be very popular, and we’re thankful to our riders for their patience as we ramp up availability to serve demand,” Krafcik wrote in a blog post announcing the expansion.
Without offering specific numbers, the CEO said Waymo is also planning to add more ridsesharing vehicles to
Einride, the Swedish autonomous trucking startup, unveiled a new vehicle type that the company hopes to have on the road delivering freight starting in 2021. The vehicles, dubbed Autonomous Electric Transport (AET), came in four different variations. And much like Einride’s previous prototypes, they come without steering wheels, pedals, windshields, and, in general, no cab at all.
Einride has been in the business of releasing interesting, eye-catching prototype vehicles since it was founded in 2016. There was the cab-less T-Pod, released in 2017, four of which are operating on public roads hauling freight for Oatly, the Swedish food producer. A year later, the company unveiled the T-Log, built to be more powerful than its predecessor for the job of (you guessed it) hauling tons of giant tree logs. Now it has a next-generation vehicle that it hopes it can put into production.
Einride’s also been engaged with the less glamorous part of the job, which is testing, validating, and seeking regulatory approval for its vehicles, all of which are electric and can be controlled remotely by a human operator, in addition to operating autonomously without human intervention. The company has yet to reveal its plans for production and manufacturing.
Design-wise, the AET vehicles look almost identical to Einride’s Pod (previously T-Pod) prototype: sleek, white, cab-less pods with smooth lines and an otherworldly feel. Einride CEO Robert Falck said the AET is more aerodynamic than previous iterations, which will help when the company starts to scale up its manufacturing. “When you nail a design the first time, why reinvent the wheel?” Falck said.
The new AET vehicles come in four levels. The first two — AET 1 and AET 2 — have top speeds of 30 km/h (18 mph), weigh 26 tons, have payloads of 16 tons, and a battery range