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It feels like not too long ago when the self-driving Waymo project was set to start an Early Riders program in Phoenix, Arizona to test autonomous vehicles and their ability to navigate highly-populated metropolitan areas. Soon after the success, Waymo was certified as the first driverless transportation network by the Arizona Department of Transportation. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is a big part of this program, having sold over 60,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid units to make up the testing fleet. Moreover, the FCA invested $30 million in upgrades to test autonomous vehicles for consumer use. Along the way, Waymo will continue to test the technology that makes autonomous cars possible with a new ride-hailing commercial service - Waymo One.
Yes, it’s what it sounds like. Waymo One will be one of the first robotaxi services America will ever see. Starting small, Waymo One is just in its pilot phase, open to 400 riders that signed up to participate earlier on. Just like any other ride-hailing app or taxi service, any of the 400 riders may hail a Waymo at any time - Waymo units will be available 24/7. The major limit is the Waymo One can only travel around the Phoenix metro area and four of its suburbs.
There will also be a safety driver during the pilot program, but think of them as the designated driver, making sure everything runs smoothly. Other than that, Waymo One is just like any other ride-hailing service. All a user has to do is open the app on their smartphone, pick their origin and destination, and a driverless, modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid will show up soon enough.
Waymo has been quiet about how many units will be available at any given time. Of the 60,000+ Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid units, 600 of them are used as a commercial service already taking place in Phoenix, Arizona. Whether or not the streets of Phoenix metro can handle multiple self-driving vehicles is just one more test for the Waymo to pass.
“We’re taking the next step in our journey with the introduction of our commercial self-driving service…Self-driving technology is new to many, so we’re proceeding carefully with the comfort and convenience of our riders in mind.” – John Krafcik, Waymo’s CEO, wrote in a blog post.
If this turns out to be a success, then the Robotaxi may find its way onto the streets of other cities soon enough. Waymo has already become the first self-driving vehicle to receive a permit to test on California highways, and will employ another Early Riders program in 2019. We’re excited to see what comes next for the autonomous car industry. This is it - we’ve arrived. You just need to live in Phoenix, Arizona to enjoy the tech thus far.
What do you think? We know not everyone likes the idea of letting a car do the driving. But with so many horrible drivers out there, letting a computer drive the car doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Join the discussion on NowCar social media.