Google offshoot Waymo has introduced Waymo One – a self-driving ride-hailing service that promises to be the future of shared mobility.
Initially, the service will only be offered to the hundreds of participants from its ‘early rider’ program, who have been helping the company test its autonomous vehicle technology. These include people who have used the service to commute to work, school and college, visit family or go out restaurants.
Waymo One journeys will also be undertaken with a safety driver onboard at first – a precaution following recent accidents throughout the self-driving sector.
Waymo One for all?
Waymo hopes to open up the service to more members of the public as they add vehicles to the fleet and expand to new areas.
For now, the company’s first customers will be able to use Waymo One 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for journeys in several Californian cities in the Metro Phoenix area, including Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, and Gilbert.
After racking up 10 million miles of experience, Waymo’s AI driver has come a long way. Some early riders have even undertaken journeys without a safety driver on board.
For those customers who are less confident about using a self-driving service, Waymo has added an in-car console that puts passengers in contact with customer support at the touch of a button, allowing them to ask questions such as, “What if I want to change my destination during the trip?”
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As highlighted by Uber’s recent safety report, and the valuable lessons it learnt following a fatal crash in March 2018, Self-driving development programs are taking a more cautious approach than they once were.
Despite this, Waymo’s progression to a commercial service is a noteworthy milestone on the road to wider adoption. Their claim as the first in the US to do so will boost their reputation as a leader in the space – particularly if the service proves popular with users and is soon rolled-out more widely.
Self-driving vehicles may fair relatively well on the well-mapped, sunny streets of California’s cities but in less favourable road and weather conditions they still fall short. If they are to largely replace human-driven cars one day, this is one of the trickiest hurdles to overcome.
Uber, meanwhile, are tentatively resuming testing on public roads.
Waymo’s self-driving truck development has been comparatively quiet in recent months, after testing started earlier this year. Uber closed its autonomous truck division in July, leaving Waymo free to make a strong claim on the potentially massive market.