After extensive testing of their driverless cars in Arizona, Waymo is ready to get their show on the real road. Waymo, which exists under the same umbrella company as Google, will now be offering rides in self-driving cars to willing passengers in and around Phoenix — and they’ll be doing it for free!
Those interested can sign up on Waymo’s website. From the sounds of it, anyone interested will be able to enter regular trips they make — to work, to school, to the grocery store — and Waymo will select a few hundred suitable participants from that pool, who will then give feedback about the self-driving cars. In particular, Waymo is looking for participants who want to go all-in on self-driving cars, by using them as their main mode of transportation.
It’s worth remembering that these aren’t the scrunched up cars you might remember from the early days of Google’s self-driving car plans. Nearly every tech company interested in autonomous driving (with the exception of Tesla) has moved away from manufacturing their own vehicles, instead opting to partner with existing car companies. Waymo has partnered with Fiat Chrysler — the self-driving test fleet in Phoenix will be made up of Chrysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with the sensors, processors, and software that makes Waymo’s self-driving tech work. All of the vehicles will still have a driver for safety, but Waymo plans for the vehicles to operate in autonomous mode as much as possible.
Last year, Uber launched a similar program in Pittsburgh, using Volvo XC90s. Since then, Uber has suffered from poor testing results (human drivers frequently needing to take over), allegations of a toxic workplace culture for women, and a lawsuit from Waymo accusing Uber of stealing technology. Meanwhile, Tesla is still slowly retooling its Autopilot autonomous system, after they pulled the feature following several accidents involving Tesla vehicles and disengaged drivers.
Via The Verge