Google sibling Waymo launches fully autonomous ride-hailing service
Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans will start picking up passengers without a human behind the wheel, even for emergencies, in the next few months, as the Google-sibling steps up war with Uber. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters
Waymo, formerly known as Google’s self-driving car, is launching a fully autonomous Uber-like ride-hailing service with no human driver behind the wheel, after testing the vehicles on public roads in Arizona.
Waymo, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, said members of the public will begin riding in its fleet of modified Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with self-driving technology in the next few months. Passengers will initially be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, but will eventually travel alone in the robotic car.
The service will first be available to those who are already part of the company’s public trial already under way in Phoenix. Rides will be free to start with, but Waymo expects to begin charging for journeys at some point.
“Because we see so much potential in shared mobility, the first way people will get to experience Waymo’s fully self-driving technology will be as a driverless service,” said Waymo’s chief executive John Krafcik as he announced the new service at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon.
“To have a vehicle on public roads without a person at the wheel, we’ve built some unique safety features into this minivan. Our system runs thousands of checks on itself every second. With these checks, our systems can instantly diagnose any problems and pull over or come to a safe stop if needed,” said Krafcik.
The service marks a major step forward in the development and roll-out of fully autonomous vehicles. While self-driving car companies have routinely tested their vehicles on public roads, they usually have a human sitting behind the wheel ready to take over should the autonomous technology fail.