No one should be surprised that an Alphabet / Google-backed company is the first to finish the crossing line in the race to launch self-driving taxis. However, not many expected it to happen so soon.
Waymo, Google’s former self-driving project that was made a standalone company under Alphabet’s umbrella, just launched Waymo One, a self-driving taxi service on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona.
The self-driving car service essentially works like an Uber, with riders using an app to summon a cab. Because of safety concerns, in the early rider program, each Waymo One driverless car will have a safety driver behind the wheel.
In the early stages, the only people who will be able to use a self-driving taxi are a few hundred users who participated in the 2017 Early Riders program.
“Early riders used our self-driving vehicles to take courses at a local college, commute to work and to high school, accompany a vision-impaired aunt shopping, get to book club each week, connect to buses, and try new restaurants on date night,” said John Krafcik, Waymo’s CEO, in a Medium post.
After gaining more feedback, the service will gradually roll out to Phoenix residents and eventually, Waymo One will be deployed countrywide.
Waymo itself already deploys driverless cars in Phoenix, Arizona, but none of them carry passengers so they do not have human drivers as a backup behind the wheel.
Even with these tiny steps, self-driving taxi development still seems to be moving at a breakneck pace, don’t you think?
For those of us outside of pilot programs, the Waymo 360° Experience will have to do for a while.