Google’s parent company Alphabet has announced its fleet of Waymo One autonomous vehicles is ready to take to the road, as it launches the service in Phoenix US.
Waymo, in development since 2009, is claimed to be the first commercial ride-sharing service using AVs available on the market. Waymo One vehicles will operate similarly to Uber or Lyft, offering a ride-hailing service 24 hours-a-day. The service will initially be available to the participants in Waymo’s ‘early riders’ pilot project from 2017, and up to three adults and a child can ride in each vehicle. Waymo says prices for users will be in line with competitors such as Uber.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik is keen to outline the company’s focus on safety: “Self-driving technology is new to many, so we’re proceeding carefully with the comfort and convenience of our riders in mind. Our early rider program will continue as a way for a select group to give us ongoing insights. They’ll help test early features before those new capabilities graduate to Waymo One. For example, we’ve already offered fully driverless rides to some of our early riders. Riders have shared their excitement about a self-driving future, and we expect this capability to gradually come to Waymo One.
“There’s a long journey ahead, but we believe that Waymo One will make the roads safer and easier for everyone to navigate.”
Initially vehicles will be manned by a trained driver to ensure safe journeys. For an additional piece of mind, customers can connect instantly to a rider support agent using Waymo One’s in-car console and screens, or through the Waymo app.
Waymo AVs use sensors and software to detect other road users, such as motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as objects like parked vehicles and road works, from up to three football fields away in all directions. The AVs are programmed to “drive defensively”, meaning they actively avoid potential dangers such as blind spots and large vehicles.
Waymo has yet to outline the timeline for its driverless service to become more widely available outside of the initial Arizona city test group.