As the self-drive research and development arm of Google, Waymo has been working on autonomous drive systems for more than a decade. Now, with its Waymo One program, the tech giant is working to convince rideshare users to consider a vehicle that pilots itself.
- Waymo One uses a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with self-drive sensors.
- The program started earlier this year and is available throughout the Phoenix metro area.
- Waymo One operates via a smartphone app, much like Uber and Lyft.
- Waymo is adding perks to the service, to create a more comfortable trip.
Waymo is working to convince rideshare users that having a computer doing the driving is better than relying on a carbon-based lifeform behind the wheel. When that doesn’t work, adding free Wi-Fi, music streaming, and already-installed child seats help, too.
According to this Reuters report, these extra features are meant to make Waymo One more appealing on a day-to-day basis. Even keeping the temperature to a constant 72 degrees helps take some of the stress, and Arizona-induced sweat, out of the rideshare equation.
Whether perks likes these are enough to convince more skeptical users remains to be seen, particularly as the program is still quite small. For now, Waymo One is offered only in Phoenix and its immediate surrounding suburbs. After being inputted into the app, the chosen destination must also be within the program’s geo-fenced limits. If you want to go somewhere that falls outside these boundaries, you’ll need some other means of getting there.
Waymo One is the largest autonomous drive rideshare operating in the U.S. (Photo: Waymo)
Rates are typically what someone would pay for Uber or Lyft. Though gaining access to Waymo One is more complicated than entering your personal information to start hailing rides. Anyone interested must apply online, with Waymo making the final call as to whether you’ll be able to participate. A Waymo spokesperson confirmed to Ride that the program presently has 1,000 enrolled users.
One feature that also comes with every ride is a human occupying the driver’s seat. While Waymo One is a step towards a future of self-drive vehicles, the technology still relies on a safety engineer being present, to take over driving needs if the computer can’t cope with a specific route or environment.
While Waymo One has some significant limitations, a similar program could soon be underway near Waymo’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. That’s because the state of California recently gave permission for Waymo to transport passengers in a fleet of autonomous drive vehicles.
The vehicles themselves include hundreds of white Chrysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with an array of sensors on the roof. Waymo is also actively working with Jaguar Land Rover to develop self-drive versions of the I-Pace electric SUV.
WHY THIS MATTERS
When a computer is driving, who is there to boss around when it comes to offering directions? Adding extra features and maintaining a clean and comfortable fleet prove that small details matter, even in the bigger picture of self-driving taxis.