On Tuesday, Waymo CEO John Krafcik announced that the company will introduce a ride-hailing service in the coming months with a subset of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica vans with no safety drivers behind the wheel whatsoever. These rides will be limited to the town of Chandler in Phoenix, Arizona from the start.
The executive made the announcement at a conference in Lisbon, Portugal, where he also teased the upscale of the new operation to progressively cover an area larger than the size of Greater London’s metro.
The Alphabet subsidiary is reaching big milestones faster than its competitors, and it has been amassing a wide catalog of partners that might prove instrumental in their growth moving forward. Uber and others, in the meantime, have similar plans scheduled not until at least 2020.
Waymo's fully self-driving cars are here—we are now test-driving on public roads without anyone in the driver’s seat https://t.co/xobjQYs8lz
— Waymo (@Waymo) November 7, 2017
How will Waymo’s ride-hailing service work?
Waymo’s big announcement is certainly exciting, but as with all the previous steps taken by the company, they want to make sure their next move is carefully planned. For this reason, the new ride-hailing service announced on Tuesday won’t be the massive operation some people think it will be right out of the gate.
For starters, the service won’t launch in the whole of Arizona straight away. It will be limited to the town of Chandler in Phoenix, where the company has previously conducted tests of unmanned units carrying no passengers and units giving rides to people with safety drivers behind the wheel.
The ride-hailing aspect of the service won’t be publicly available either, as only a select few will make up the pool of people who will get to ride alone as only the cars drive. These people, initially, will be the same that took part in Waymo’s pilot program a few months back.
Waymo just took a massive step toward a future with fully self-driving cars https://t.co/HhKqqyJyZZ
— WIRED (@WIRED) November 7, 2017
There are still obstacles in Waymo cars’ way
The autonomy side of the whole operation is perhaps the most straightforward, since it will be quite similar to what we expect from such a service: you request a unit come pick you up, you enter your destination on a touch screen onboard, and you are on your merry way with no driver behind the wheel.
There will be a button to stop the ride at any time passengers feel like it though, giving them full control of the experience if they feel overwhelmed by the situation. People getting used to riding without drivers is a minor concern in contrast to others Waymo might have, though.
For instance, self-driving car regulation outside of Arizona is harsh in most states, and only a handful of other locations in the U.S. have been part of Waymo’s ongoing open road testing mile count. Transportation authorities in the country are rushing to put up a comprehensible autonomous driving reform to make the industry thrive faster.