Waymo launches self-driving ride-hailing service in Phoenix

Alphabet Inc’s self-driving ride-hailing service Waymo officially launched for customers in downtown Phoenix, Arizona last week in a big step for autonomous technology in the United States. 

Despite tough regulatory scrutiny and delayed commercial adoption of self-driving cars, customers can now download the Waymo app and book a ride within Phoenix’s downtown area, the company announced on Thursday. 

The company decided to launch its ride-hailing service after almost a year of test runs in the area through its “trusted tester” program, offering test rides in Pheonix’s East Valley region and trips to and from Sky Harbor airport. 

“We have driven millions and millions of miles with the driver both in real life and in simulation,” said Reed Morse, a software engineer at Waymo. “We’ve driven more in Phoenix than literally anybody else in the entire world, human or otherwise.”

Waymo did not specify how many of its Jaguar I-PACE’s would make up the fleet in downtown Phoenix. However, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch that they are ready to meet a “healthy demand” for a 24/7 ride-hailing service downtown. 

See more: Metaverse: VELES prepares world’s first metaverse platform dedicated for a radio broadcaster

“I love it, it’s autonomous, you don’t have to worry about someone like an Uber driver or someone that you don’t want to talk to,” said Max Simpson, a Waymo user. “It’s spacious, it’s a lot cheaper than Uber or Lyft.”

However, other Phoenix residents remained more skeptical about the use of autonomous cars in their city. 

“I think in the future I’ll trust it more, it’s just so new I don’t trust it yet,” said resident Kira Binstock. “It makes me kind of nervous.”

Waymo is looking to deploy its robotaxi service to customers in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the near future as well. 

Waymo began as Google’s self-driving car project in 2009. Alphabet’s company is competing with General Motors Co’s Cruise, Mobileye, and other car manufacturers to design completely autonomous vehicles.