Waymo opens up cars to hundreds of Phoenix residents, following aggressive pitching from state of Arizona
Googles self-driving car spin-off, Waymo, is opening up its vehicles to members of the public for the first time.
Residents of Phoenix, Arizona, are being invited to apply to join the trial, which will see hundreds of participants being given full-time access to the fleet of600 self-driving minivans that Waymo intends to operate in the city.
Over the course of this trial, well be accepting hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and transportation needs who want to ride in and give feedback about Waymos self-driving cars, Waymos head, John Krafcik, said in a blogpost. Rather than offering people one or two rides, the goal of this programme is to give participants access to our fleet every day, at any time, to go anywhere within an area thats about twice the size of San Francisco.
While Waymos head office is still in Googles hometown of Mountain View, California, the state of Arizona has been aggressively courting self-driving car researchers, lowering regulatory burdens and even embarking on Twitter campaigns aimed at wooing companies from Silicon Valley. The states governor, Doug Ducey, bombarded Uber with pitches for Arizona after the taxi firm was banned from testing in California following a series of regulatory breaches.
Waymo has been testing 100 self-driving minivans on public roads since earlier this year, the company revealed, and now intends to add another 500 to its broader fleet.
Krafcik added: Our early riders will play an important role in shaping the way we bring self-driving technology into the world through personal cars, public transportation, ride-hailing, logistics and more. Self-driving cars have the potential to reshape each and every one of these areas, transforming our lives and our cities by making them safer, more convenient and more accessible.
For the time being, however, the programme is more akin to a subsidised taxi service than a truly open self-driving car release: Waymo says that our goal is to develop fully self-driving vehicles that require no intervention, though as part of this early trial, there will be a test driver in each vehicle monitoring the rides at all times. As a result, however, the households that apply do not need driving licences, or even the physical capability to take control of the car.
Originally part of a Google subsidiary called X Labs, Waymo has had a varied corporate life. When Google was restructured into Alphabet, X Labs was spun off to become an equal sibling to Google, called X, with both sitting under the same corporate parent. The self-driving car project continued at X until late 2016, when it was rebranded as Waymo.
That spin-off was widely seen as heralding a new direction for the company, which had previously been focused on building a whole new car without the need or ability for drivers to take control from the AI. Now, Waymos goal appears to be more collaborative in nature, with the company partnering with existing manufacturers like Chrysler to add self-driving features to production vehicles.