Waymo is now offering limited rider only trips with its robo-taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona according to a report in Reuters. The news was confirmed by Waymo Chief Executive John Krafcik at a dinner with journalists in Detroit on Sunday.
- Waymo is offering rider only trips with no human attendants.
- This is a limited test program in Phoenix, Arizona
- Only a few hundred people are part of the program.
Fully autonomous Waymo vehicles are nothing new to Phoenix. They’ve been testing in the area on a limited basis for some time, but now things are different. Although the vehicles were always capable of driving without a human there to take the wheel, a driver was still present just in case something went wrong.
Select riders in Phoenix, Arizona will find no one at the wheel for their Waymo trip. (Photo: Waymo)
No driver needed.
This latest batch of test rides has no such failsafe. There are no attendants in these vehicles at all so it will be a true autonomous taxi service with only the riders in the car. Those who experience these rider only trips will be some of the first in the country to get a taste of the autonomous future of mobility.
The service is currently being offered only to a few hundred early users who were required to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to participate. Waymo didn’t say how many fully autonomous rides it has given so far but did indicate that it’s a rather small number. Expansion of the program will depend on the success of these early rider-only trips.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Autonomous vehicle technology is evolving quickly thanks to testing on public roads. Those tests involved having a human driver ready to take over in an emergency. Giving full control to the vehicle with no human as backup while passengers are in the car is a big step forward. Even with the limited number of trips Waymo is currently giving, success with this new phase of the program could hasten the day when rider only trips are the norm rather than a novelty.