In December 2018, Waymo launched Waymo One, a paid ride service that uses their autonomous vehicles. Now, their new “early rider” program and Waymo One will be operating at the same time.
Waymo One runs in a similar fashion to Uber or Lyft. There is a safety driver ready to take over in the case the self-driving technology does not detect imminent danger. The service was initially offered to only 400 people that had been prescreened to participate.
Over 20,000 people have signed up to participate in Waymo’s “early rider” program listed on the company’s website. The program measures the company’s capabilities and how their vehicles will interact with the public.
“In our early rider program, we are actively evaluating new territory to expand for our early riders,” Dezbah Hatathli said. Dezbah Hatathli is Waymo’s local policy and community manager. “We not only rely on our riders to tell us where they might want to go in new territories, but we also depend on their feedback to better understand things like routing, pick-ups and drop-offs.”
Company officials say the goal is to grow Waymo One until it becomes a national service provided to customers.
The goal would then be to make it an international service. Hatathli would only say that the service is available to several hundred participants at the moment. She said there is no set date to expand in the near future.
“As the service scales, we want to make sure Waymo One riders’ experience is excellent, which means continuing to fine tune our driving style, creating a customized rider experience, making routes more efficient, and streamlining pick-up and drop-off locations,” Hatathli said. “In addition to the learning from the millions of miles we’ve logged, we’ve received incredible feedback from our riders and the community to improve the experience for people inside and outside the vehicles.”
Arizona continues to be popular among autonomous car developers, including Waymo. Self-driving cars were first welcomed to the state by Governor Doug Ducey by executive order in 2015.
“Metro Phoenix offers everything we’ve needed to build safe and reliable self-driving technology: a large area with broad, yet complex, city streets to practice on; a wide-spread suburban population that relies heavily on vehicle transport; and of course, lots of gorgeous sunny days to drive in while we also invest in further weather testing,” a Waymo announcement said. “Most importantly, metro Phoenix is an innovation-minded region that shares our vision of improving mobility for all.”