Google's Waymo Is Launching a Driverless Ride-Hailing Service

Google's Waymo Is Launching a Driverless Ride-Hailing Service

On Tuesday, Waymo, the driverless auto unit of Google's parent company, Alphabet, announced that its self-driving cars will no longer use human safety drivers as the company continues to test the vehicles around Arizona suburbs. But the vehicles have always had a human test driver behind the wheel.

CEO John Krafcik confirmed the program while delivering a speech at a conference in Portugal, with a Waymo blog post shortly following his Tuesday, Nov. 7 remarks.

That means there won't have to be a person sitting in the driver's seat, waiting to take over, and that the car's computer system will complete all parts of the driving task - though for now, only in some of the company's cars in Phoenix, Ariz. Its Early Rider Program has given riders in the Phoenix the chance to try Waymo's automated ride-sharing service for themselves, though with a human driver behind the wheel ready to take control if needed.

Earlier this week Waymo, Google's driverless vehicle arm, said it would start offering lifts to the public in driverless vans "in the next few months".

"Over time, we'll cover a region that's larger than the size of Greater London, and we'll add more vehicles as we grow".

Waymo claims to have already carried out 3 million miles of testing autonomous cars on public roads. The vehicle in use was the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan, which was developed in Novi, Michigan and manufactured in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The company says it wants to test a robotaxi service in the near future.

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Waymo and its partners face competition from a wide range of vehicle makers, established technology companies and well-funded start-ups.

The company said in an October 26 news release it would begin testing its self-driving cars on public roads in the Novi, Michigan area in the "next few weeks". Phoenix also rarely experiences the kind of inclement weather that autonomous technology still struggles to handle.

"We're now working on making this commercial service available to the public", Krafcik said. Using a smartphone app, members of the public would be able to summon a Chrysler Pacifica people carrier.

Waymo is also signaling one of its potential business models for self-driving cars, in the form of a car-share service.

MI will become the sixth state where Waymo has tested its self-driving vehicles. The company did not say whether it was testing the driverless cars in environments considered challenging for autonomous vehicles, like bridges or tunnels, or more hard conditions, like driving at night or in rain and snow - usually not a big concern in the dry Phoenix climate.

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