Google's Waymo Is Launching a Driverless Ride-Hailing Service



CEO John Krafcik confirmed the program while delivering a speech at a conference in Portugal, with a Waymo blog post shortly following his Tuesday, Nov. 7 remarks.

Waymo has been pushing for road tests aggressively for years, The Verge's Andrew J. Hawkins notes. Initially, they will be accompanied in the back of the vehicle by a Waymo employee, but once Waymo allows the public to travel alone an emergency stop button will be fitted to the test vehicles.

"Starting now, Waymo's fully self-driving vehicles - our safest, most advanced vehicles on the road today - are test-driving on public roads, without anyone in the driver's seat", the company writes.

Google ditched early tests of its self-driving cars after some of its test drivers "fell asleep" behind the wheel, reports The Daily Telegraph.

About 100 of the company's self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans are now driving around Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix, without a human test driver-a move that catapults Waymo ahead of its competitors.

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"Over time, we'll cover a region that's larger than the size of Greater London, and we'll add more vehicles as we grow".

Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny is an ardent supporter of Waymo's testing in the area. Developers are still grappling with vehicle performance in snow or heavy rain.

Over the next few months, Waymo says it will invite the public to come and take a ride in its self-driving vehicles.

"The big players are clearly making major progress towards autonomy and shaking up the industry, but this change won't happen overnight", Akshay Anand, executive analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said in an emailed statement.

During the early phases of trialling the company's autonomous systems, the newspaper says, test drivers were "falling asleep at the wheel while at 55mph on a motorway". Phoenix also rarely experiences the kind of inclement weather that autonomous technology still struggles to handle.

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Waymo is Google's self-driving auto program that was spun off from its parent company past year. Waymo's leap to Level 4 is a huge step beyond even the Audi AI system of the new A8, which can take over driving but only through low-speed highway traffic jams. The public will use an app to catch a ride just as they do for Uber and Lyft.

Though the company has yet to commercialize its cars, learning how consumers interact with and want to use fully driverless cars - as well as any new data the auto collects as it drives by itself on public roads - is incredibly valuable.

Waymo is also signaling one of its potential business models for self-driving cars, in the form of a car-share service.

With over eight years of testing under its belt, Waymo is a pioneer of self-driving technology and has tested its system in six states, the latest being MI.

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