Waymo trials free self-driving taxi service in Phoenix

Enlarge / One of the earliest self-driving trial families poses with Waymo’s minivan. (credit: Waymo)

Waymo—Alphabet’s self-driving car division—is launching a “trial” of a self-driving taxi service in the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area. The Google spinoff’s fleet of self-driving cars is descending on Phoenix and offering free rides to anyone in its “early rider program,” which is currently accepting new members.

The taxi service is not totally “self-driving.” Waymo notes that “as part of this early trial, there will be a test driver in each vehicle monitoring the rides at all times.” While the car will handle most of the driving duties, a driver will ensure nothing goes wrong if the car runs into a situation it can’t handle. While the trial will offer free rides to Phoenix residents, it will also serve as a research program for Waymo. The company’s blog post say it wants to “learn things like where people want to go in a self-driving car, how they communicate with our vehicles, and what information and controls they want to see inside.”

To handle the load of a city-wide taxi service, Waymo is building 500 more of its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, bringing the total minivan fleet to 600. The minivans represent the latest in Waymo’s technology. In a recent talk at the North American International Auto Show, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said the vehicles would be the launch platform for Waymo’s “full-stack approach,” which combines Waymo’s software with a “fully integrated hardware suite” that is “all designed and built, from the ground up, by Waymo.” Most self-driving car programs stick to developing software using Velodyne’s LiDAR hardware.

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Source: Ars Technica

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