Waymo Self-Driving Service Launches in Phoenix

By Tiffany Meier

After months of testing, Waymo, Google’s self-driving car, is finally ready to launch its autonomous ride-hailing service in the Phoenix area.

Just to be safe, there will still be a human behind the wheel in case the robotic vehicles malfunction.

“Part of our mission, right, is to make it easy and safe for people and things to get around, and so we wanted more and more folks to be exposed to this technology and for us to learn more and get more feedback,” Daniel Chu, Head of Product at Waymo, told FOX News.

The service debuted on Wednesday, Dec. 5, marking a milestone for Waymo, which began as a secretive project within Google back in 2009.

Since then, its cars have robotically logged more than 10 million miles on public roads in 25 cities in California, Arizona, Washington, Michigan, and Georgia while only getting into a few accidents—mostly fender-benders, according to The Associated Press.

Waymo One program will give customers rides in self-driving cars, available 24 hours a day.

Initially, the company is operating the new service cautiously, underscoring the challenges still facing its autonomous vehicles as they navigate around vehicles with human drivers that don’t always follow the same rules that robots do.

Waymo One will only be available to a couple hundred riders, all of whom were already participants in a free pilot program that began April 2017.

The rides will be confined to a roughly 100-square-mile area in and around Phoenix, including the neighboring cities of Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, and Gilbert.

In the pilot program, the robotic vehicles drove passengers without a human behind the wheel, but the company decided to be less daring for the new commercial service.

“Self-driving technology is new to many, so we’re proceeding carefully with the comfort and convenience of our riders in mind,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik wrote in a blog post on Wednesday, heralding the arrival of the new service.

Waymo eventually plans to open its new ride-hailing app to everyone in the Phoenix area, although it’s unclear when.

It also wants to expand to other cities, but it is also unclear exactly where.

However, when that happens, it could pose a threat to both Uber and Lyft, especially since it should be able to charge lower prices without the need for human drivers to be in control at all times.