A self-driving car program, now known as Waymo, is about to quietly launch a fleet of paid rides in the world's very first commercial driverless car service.
Imagine a world where you hail a cab and step into an empty vehicle. This empty car takes you to your destination while you sit in the back, read and swipe the app for payment.
This world is coming to Phoenix, Arizona in just a few weeks. And of course, the company is owned by Google.
They've already been testing this for 10 years.
The secretive Waymo has been quietly testing the technology of self-driving cars for a decade and has clocked in millions of driverless miles. Waymo still isn't telling anyone what the new company or app will be called. But in early December the people of Arizona will start to see it for themselves. Google and Waymo are both sibling subsidiaries of Alphabet Inc.
Bloomberg reports that things will start small and slow, with the service being only available in 100-square mile Phoenix area.
The first wave of customers will likely draw from Waymo's Early Rider Program—a test group of 400 volunteer families who have been riding Waymos for more than a year. The customers who move to the new service will be released from their non-disclosure agreements, which means they'll be free to talk about it, snap selfies, and take friends or even members of the media along for rides." (source)
Alphabet X's lab is already shuttling employees to and from the job site in driverless vans in Mountain View and just last week Waymo got approval to begin testing cars with no backup drivers in Silicon Valley, the same spot Tesla's Autopilot is based.
Will there be 10 million self-driving cars by 2020?
Business Insider predicted in 2016 that there would be 10 million self-driving cars on the roads by 2020 and because of this new announcement, this might actually happen with stunning accuracy.
Waymo will launch a commercial self-driving car service in the Phoenix area before the end of the year, says CEO John Krafcik. The venture, which pushes Waymo to the front of the driverless car race, will first be open to a small group of people. Krafcik added that businesses like Walmart and Avis were also willing to pay the service to transport their customers. Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet, announced deals earlier this year to purchase thousands of vehicles from Fiat Chrysler and Jaguar Land Rover. (Source)
Bloomberg says this is what we can expect in December:
When Waymo starts its commercial program, there will be backup drivers in some cars to help ease customers into the service and to take over if necessary, according to the person familiar with the plans. The fleet of heavily modified Chrysler Pacifica minivans will drive themselves more than 99.9 percent of the time, based on data from Waymo's test program submitted to California regulators.
Some volunteers in the Phoenix Early Rider Program won't switch over to the new commercial program, the person said. Instead, they'll continue to test new features and offer feedback to the company. For example, volunteers may receive cars with no backup driver with increasing frequency.
The company is taking a plodding approach across the U.S. to avoid any possible mishaps like crashes from setting the whole program back.