December 6, 2018
After months of testing and millions of miles developing self-driving vehicle technology, Waymo—a subsidiary of Alphabet that originated as a Google project in 2009—has officially launched the country’s first commercial autonomous ride-share service, CNBC reported on December 5.
Based in Mountain View, California (like Google), Waymo stands for “a new way forward in mobility.” Since testing began, the company’s fleet of self-driving vehicles has included modified Toyota Priuses, Lexus SUVs, a custom-built prototype vehicle (named “Firefly”), and now, fully self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. In addition, Waymo has partnered with Jaguar to create the world’s first premium electric self-driving car—the Jaguar I-Pace.
The company’s Waymo One program gives riders access to an app that they can use on their smart phones to call its self-driving vehicles, 24/7. Initially, the service will be limited to cities surrounding Phoenix, including Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler, CNBC said. Customers in the Phoenix area include hundreds of people who have been test users of the Waymo self-driving vehicle fleet that has been in development since April 2017.
“Self-driving technology is new to many, so we’re proceeding carefully with the comfort and convenience of our riders in mind,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik told CNBC. One example of Waymo taking a cautious approach rolling out its ride-share service is the company’s use of safety drivers to supervise the rides, at least initially
“For now,” the company says on its website, “Waymo-trained drivers are in the cars to make sure our riders have a great experience and serve as a backup only.” In addition, the company’s app and consoles in the Waymo One vehicles will allow riders to instantly connect with support agents who can assist riders with questions.
Alphabet‘s Waymo One marks the start of the race by automakers, tech companies and other firms to launch autonomous ride-share services, CNBC notes. General Motors subsidiary Cruise plans to launch a similar service using self-driving vehicles next year.
What’s driving the competition? The pursuit of greater profits. Studies of have shown the biggest cost for ride-share operations is the expense of paying a driver. General Motors estimates it costs ride -share companies more than $3 per mile in San Francisco. However, GM believes that cost could drop to roughly $1 per mile by 2025 with driverless vehicles in ride-share fleets.
Research contact: @Lebeaucarnews