Waymo, the autonomous car unit of Google-parent Alphabet, opened its robo-taxi project to the general public in the US city of Phoenix on Thursday, becoming the first widely available driverless ride service.
Now that the project has shifted out of its test phase, anyone signed up through the Waymo One smartphone app can summon autonomous vehicles to travel throughout the Arizona city’s metro area, chief executive John Krafcik said.
“Members of the public service can now take friends and family along on their rides and share their experience with the world,” he added.
“We’ll start with those who are already a part of Waymo One and, over the next several weeks, welcome more people directly into the service through our app.”
The Waymo One app is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Waymo started testing a fully driverless ride service in Phoenix some three years ago with self-driving technology built into Chrysler Pacifica vehicles.
Between five and 10 percent of rides through its service so far in 2020 have been taken in fully driverless vehicles by an exclusive group of riders who signed non-disclosure agreements.
“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 said.
Waymo plans to bolster the ride service fleet with vehicles that use self-driving technology but also have safety operators behind the wheel.
Waymo early this year raised $2.25 billion in its first external funding round to accelerate its deployment of autonomous cars and trucks.
Born in a Google lab devoted to big-vision new technology, Waymo became
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
- Business Insider asked seven venture capitalists to choose the two self-driving startups they believe have the most potential.
- At least one of the VC’s picks had to come from outside their firm’s portfolio.
- Many of their choices reflected the autonomy industry’s increasing focus on trucking and deliveries over ride-hail.
- Aurora Innovation was picked four times, more than any other company.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Self-driving taxis have taken longer to reach widespread adoption than experts predicted during the 2010s. That may be why venture capitalists see potential in autonomous-vehicle startups that are focused on applications, like trucking and mining, that present fewer technological challenges than ride-hailing.
Business Insider asked seven venture capitalists to pick the two autonomous-vehicle startups they believe have the most promise, with the caveat that only one could be a company their firm has invested in. Their selections reflected the industry’s increasing focus on business models that present a quicker path to commercialization than robotaxis and consumer cars.
These 10 startups could play a major role in that pivot.