Waymo expected to launch paid, driverless ridehailing service in December

Posted:
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Beating all of its rivals to the punch, Alphabet's Waymo is reportedly planning on launching its commercial driverless ridehailing service in early December.

Waymo


The service will be similar to Uber or Lyft, and operate under a new brand which is being kept secret until launch, according to a Bloomberg source. Waymo declined to confirm or deny details in a statement, simply saying that it's been "working on self-driving technology for nearly a decade, with safety at the core of everything we do."

Operations will allegedly start out small, to the point that apps won't be visible in the iOS App Store or Google Play. The first riders may be a few hundred or even just dozens of "authorized" people from an area of 100 square miles around Phoeniz, Ariz., likely selected from the 400 volunteer families who participated in Waymo's Early Rider Program.

Until now those people have been able to ride for free, but the tradeoff in switching to paid rides would be freedom from non-disclosure agreements and the ability to take along anyone they want. Waymo is also expected to add more and more vehicles as it grows its customer base.

Some vehicles will still have backup drivers initially, both to make customers feel comfortable and take over if necessary. Indeed the Early Rider Program should continue, the idea being that those people will test new features, for instance an increasing number of driverless rides.

Waymo is eventually expected to "seed" programs in other U.S. cities and expand from there, a cautious approach mandated by the chance that accidents or fatalities could cripple prospects. The next commercial launch could operate out of Silicon Valley in California.

Prices for the Phoenix service should be similar to Uber and Lyft at first, but once backup drivers are removed and the company begins factoring in in-ride entertainment and advertising, fares could become cheaper.

Assuming the December launch does happen, Waymo will be at least a year ahead of rivals like GM and Tesla.

Apple has been developing its own self-driving car platform for a few years, now in testing on California roads. The company was initially rumored to be working on a full-fledged electric vehicle under the codename "Project Titan," but the program then scaled back to self-driving systems, one possible goal being partnership with a third-party ridehailing company.

In recent months rumors of an Apple-designed car have been reborn, with well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo even claiming one could roll out between 2023 and 2025. This is supported by a recent power converter patent specifically intended for cars.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    This is pretty much how I expected driverless cars to come in. First experimental systems. Then limited functionality, self parking, lane warning etc. Then things like cabs and shuttle busses in restricted areas. It will only be after more intervening steps, driverless long haul trucking is one I expect to see in a few years, will people be able to walk into a dealership and buy a car without a steering wheel. 
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 2 of 18
    I don't need a jet pack. We about about to be living in the future. This is amazing, even if it starts off very small.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 3 of 18
    I don't need a jet pack. We about about to be living in the future. This is amazing, even if it starts off very small.
    We had to give up our jet pack rights to advance self-driving cars?  Bummer. /s
    GeorgeBMacSpamSandwichbaconstangbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 4 of 18
    The part I do not get about completely self-driving cars is:   the health center that I go to has at least a dozen different doors spread across the length of a football field and they are both in front and back and on two different levels.   How does it know which door to go to?

    And, when I go to the gym to work out, how does it know to pick the closest parking spot?  (LOL... -- at myself!)
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 5 of 18
    The line about being ahead of rivals GM and Tesla betrays a lack of understanding (or just naïveté to nuances)..

    A— If you’re going to mention GM, tack a “+ Lyft” on there, because that’s the partnership that’s trying to achieve the same thing as Waymo (AKA: company makes money off passenger rides).

    B— Tesla is aiming for self-driving but there’s only kinda partial business goal overlap (Tesla makes money by selling products — it’s plan for ridesharing literally says, enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it).
    edited November 2018
  • Reply 6 of 18
    The part I do not get about completely self-driving cars is:   the health center that I go to has at least a dozen different doors spread across the length of a football field and they are both in front and back and on two different levels.   How does it know which door to go to?

    And, when I go to the gym to work out, how does it know to pick the closest parking spot?  (LOL... -- at myself!)
    That's a good point.  GPS directions are pretty awesome, except for the last 50 yards or so.  I wonder if the riders can provide the verbal updates that they'd give a real driver ("ok drop me up on the right side just after the light").
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 7 of 18
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,007moderator
    DAalseth said:
    This is pretty much how I expected driverless cars to come in. First experimental systems. Then limited functionality, self parking, lane warning etc. Then things like cabs and shuttle busses in restricted areas. It will only be after more intervening steps, driverless long haul trucking is one I expect to see in a few years, will people be able to walk into a dealership and buy a car without a steering wheel. 
    Not that many will ever actually take possession of such a vehicle. I think automated vehicles and ride hailing, along with the associated decline in the younger generation owning vehicles, are moving lockstep into the future.  By the time a 99.9999% autonomous car is available, the whole ride hailing phenomenon will be at such a high degree of capability that it’ll seem second nature to use such services.  When you’re going to Home Depot to grab some sheetrock or an oversized American backyard gas grill you’ll order an appropriate vehicle for that need, and when you’re going to the beach, picking up five friends along the way, well, there’s a vehicle for that too, along with simple and automated ride share cost sharing among passengers.  Each share will automatically deduct from their individual accounts as they are picked up along the route.  And when you need the kids picked up from soccer practice while you’re still at work, there’s a vehicle/ride share option for that too.  It’ll be a van stationed nearby the soccer field at that time of day, because the global dispatch system will learn/know the habits of the populous in each metro area/region. It’ll be like Bruce Lee; flow like water.  
    edited November 2018 DAalseth
  • Reply 8 of 18
    I don't need a jet pack. We about about to be living in the future. This is amazing, even if it starts off very small.
    We had to give up our jet pack rights to advance self-driving cars?  Bummer. /s
    Forget jet packs, I’m looking forward to a refined version of the BlackFly:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VIygDyKMVwM

    Once they are able to add wheels and make this thing roadworthy, we’re officially in Jetsons/ Bladerunner territory.
    edited November 2018 randominternetperson
  • Reply 9 of 18
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    The part I do not get about completely self-driving cars is:   the health center that I go to has at least a dozen different doors spread across the length of a football field and they are both in front and back and on two different levels.   How does it know which door to go to?

    And, when I go to the gym to work out, how does it know to pick the closest parking spot?  (LOL... -- at myself!)
    That's a good point.  GPS directions are pretty awesome, except for the last 50 yards or so.  I wonder if the riders can provide the verbal updates that they'd give a real driver ("ok drop me up on the right side just after the light").

    Mrs Rayz2016 complained that she was trying to use Apple Maps to find a hotel, and it missed by a good half mile or so. The reason is that she is still in the habit of putting in the postcode. In the UK, the postcode system is excellent: a postcode contains, on average, about fifteen buildings. This is great for houses, because that will land you pretty close to the right address. It's not so great for hotels, because hotels are huge and if you have four or five close together then Apple Maps tends to miss. 

    You get a much better result by putting in the name of the hotel, rather than the postcode, then it'll take you right to the reception entrance.

    A shame this never really took off:

    https://what3words.com

  • Reply 10 of 18
    Rayz2016 said:
    The part I do not get about completely self-driving cars is:   the health center that I go to has at least a dozen different doors spread across the length of a football field and they are both in front and back and on two different levels.   How does it know which door to go to?

    And, when I go to the gym to work out, how does it know to pick the closest parking spot?  (LOL... -- at myself!)
    That's a good point.  GPS directions are pretty awesome, except for the last 50 yards or so.  I wonder if the riders can provide the verbal updates that they'd give a real driver ("ok drop me up on the right side just after the light").

    Mrs Rayz2016 complained that she was trying to use Apple Maps to find a hotel, and it missed by a good half mile or so. The reason is that she is still in the habit of putting in the postcode. In the UK, the postcode system is excellent: a postcode contains, on average, about fifteen buildings. This is great for houses, because that will land you pretty close to the right address. It's not so great for hotels, because hotels are huge and if you have four or five close together then Apple Maps tends to miss. 

    You get a much better result by putting in the name of the hotel, rather than the postcode, then it'll take you right to the reception entrance.

    A shame this never really took off:

    https://what3words.com

    That's great!   (Unless you wanted to go to the side entrance to get close to your room while lugging 35# of luggage.)

    "I'm sorry Hal, I can't do that"
  • Reply 11 of 18
    DAalseth said:
    This is pretty much how I expected driverless cars to come in. First experimental systems. Then limited functionality, self parking, lane warning etc. Then things like cabs and shuttle busses in restricted areas. It will only be after more intervening steps, driverless long haul trucking is one I expect to see in a few years, will people be able to walk into a dealership and buy a car without a steering wheel. 
    Not that many will ever actually take possession of such a vehicle. I think automated vehicles and ride hailing, along with the associated decline in the younger generation owning vehicles, are moving lockstep into the future.  By the time a 99.9999% autonomous car is available, the whole ride hailing phenomenon will be at such a high degree of capability that it’ll seem second nature to use such services.  When you’re going to Home Depot to grab some sheetrock or an oversized American backyard gas grill you’ll order an appropriate vehicle for that need, and when you’re going to the beach, picking up five friends along the way, well, there’s a vehicle for that too, along with simple and automated ride share cost sharing among passengers.  Each share will automatically deduct from their individual accounts as they are picked up along the route.  And when you need the kids picked up from soccer practice while you’re still at work, there’s a vehicle/ride share option for that too.  It’ll be a van stationed nearby the soccer field at that time of day, because the global dispatch system will learn/know the habits of the populous in each metro area/region. It’ll be like Bruce Lee; flow like water.  
    On one hand, I agree with you.  On the other, it seems impossible.  It all comes down to where you live.  In urban centers this is a no-brainer.   Out in the 'burbs or rural areas with lower population densities and longer distances to travel, I'm very skeptical.  Americans already own more cars (and trucks) than they really need, and I expect that trend to continue.  But instead of every family in my neighborhood owning an SUV, a truck, and a minivan, perhaps in 10 or 20 years we'll be down to an average of 1 car.  I'll guess we'll have to wait and see.
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 12 of 18
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,147member
    Maybe it's just me, but I'd feel safer in those new driverless flying taxis I keep reading about, than on the road populated by so many lousy human drivers.
    edited November 2018 SpamSandwichraoulduke42
  • Reply 13 of 18
    MacPro said:
    Maybe it's just me, but I'd feel safer in those new driverless flying taxis I keep reading about, than on the road populated by so many lousy human drivers.
    Autonomous taxis = Tired.
    Flying taxis = Wired.
  • Reply 14 of 18
    DAalseth said:
    This is pretty much how I expected driverless cars to come in. First experimental systems. Then limited functionality, self parking, lane warning etc. Then things like cabs and shuttle busses in restricted areas. It will only be after more intervening steps, driverless long haul trucking is one I expect to see in a few years, will people be able to walk into a dealership and buy a car without a steering wheel. 
    Not that many will ever actually take possession of such a vehicle. I think automated vehicles and ride hailing, along with the associated decline in the younger generation owning vehicles, are moving lockstep into the future.  By the time a 99.9999% autonomous car is available, the whole ride hailing phenomenon will be at such a high degree of capability that it’ll seem second nature to use such services.  When you’re going to Home Depot to grab some sheetrock or an oversized American backyard gas grill you’ll order an appropriate vehicle for that need, and when you’re going to the beach, picking up five friends along the way, well, there’s a vehicle for that too, along with simple and automated ride share cost sharing among passengers.  Each share will automatically deduct from their individual accounts as they are picked up along the route.  And when you need the kids picked up from soccer practice while you’re still at work, there’s a vehicle/ride share option for that too.  It’ll be a van stationed nearby the soccer field at that time of day, because the global dispatch system will learn/know the habits of the populous in each metro area/region. It’ll be like Bruce Lee; flow like water.  
    That is likely to be how it works out. I have a $25,000 hunk of machinery that sits in my carport or at work 99% of the trime. Why should I own one if there's a ride hailing service I could use. And I like the idea of hailing the vehicle you need for the task. 
    radarthekat
  • Reply 15 of 18
    DAalseth said:
    DAalseth said:
    This is pretty much how I expected driverless cars to come in. First experimental systems. Then limited functionality, self parking, lane warning etc. Then things like cabs and shuttle busses in restricted areas. It will only be after more intervening steps, driverless long haul trucking is one I expect to see in a few years, will people be able to walk into a dealership and buy a car without a steering wheel. 
    Not that many will ever actually take possession of such a vehicle. I think automated vehicles and ride hailing, along with the associated decline in the younger generation owning vehicles, are moving lockstep into the future.  By the time a 99.9999% autonomous car is available, the whole ride hailing phenomenon will be at such a high degree of capability that it’ll seem second nature to use such services.  When you’re going to Home Depot to grab some sheetrock or an oversized American backyard gas grill you’ll order an appropriate vehicle for that need, and when you’re going to the beach, picking up five friends along the way, well, there’s a vehicle for that too, along with simple and automated ride share cost sharing among passengers.  Each share will automatically deduct from their individual accounts as they are picked up along the route.  And when you need the kids picked up from soccer practice while you’re still at work, there’s a vehicle/ride share option for that too.  It’ll be a van stationed nearby the soccer field at that time of day, because the global dispatch system will learn/know the habits of the populous in each metro area/region. It’ll be like Bruce Lee; flow like water.  
    That is likely to be how it works out. I have a $25,000 hunk of machinery that sits in my carport or at work 99% of the trime. Why should I own one if there's a ride hailing service I could use. And I like the idea of hailing the vehicle you need for the task. 
    As long as something is nearby, it's convenient. When it's not convenient usually ends up being the one time you need to get somewhere in an emergency situation.
  • Reply 16 of 18
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,007moderator
    DAalseth said:
    DAalseth said:
    This is pretty much how I expected driverless cars to come in. First experimental systems. Then limited functionality, self parking, lane warning etc. Then things like cabs and shuttle busses in restricted areas. It will only be after more intervening steps, driverless long haul trucking is one I expect to see in a few years, will people be able to walk into a dealership and buy a car without a steering wheel. 
    Not that many will ever actually take possession of such a vehicle. I think automated vehicles and ride hailing, along with the associated decline in the younger generation owning vehicles, are moving lockstep into the future.  By the time a 99.9999% autonomous car is available, the whole ride hailing phenomenon will be at such a high degree of capability that it’ll seem second nature to use such services.  When you’re going to Home Depot to grab some sheetrock or an oversized American backyard gas grill you’ll order an appropriate vehicle for that need, and when you’re going to the beach, picking up five friends along the way, well, there’s a vehicle for that too, along with simple and automated ride share cost sharing among passengers.  Each share will automatically deduct from their individual accounts as they are picked up along the route.  And when you need the kids picked up from soccer practice while you’re still at work, there’s a vehicle/ride share option for that too.  It’ll be a van stationed nearby the soccer field at that time of day, because the global dispatch system will learn/know the habits of the populous in each metro area/region. It’ll be like Bruce Lee; flow like water.  
    That is likely to be how it works out. I have a $25,000 hunk of machinery that sits in my carport or at work 99% of the trime. Why should I own one if there's a ride hailing service I could use. And I like the idea of hailing the vehicle you need for the task. 
    As long as something is nearby, it's convenient. When it's not convenient usually ends up being the one time you need to get somewhere in an emergency situation.
    There’s an app for that.  911.   But on a more serious note, availability and timeliness are certainly major concerns.  In a fully automated world there should be less traffic per passenger mile, as there would be carpooling incentives that would be arranged automatically (you opt for that if you want to pay less and it’s available for any given ride), vehicles will collaborate with one another to reduce space between on highways, routing will automatically take into account traffic conditions and other obstacles or localized delays, with constant monitoring and adjustments enroute, parking (finding a space) will become a thing of the past, and that means you’re picked up and dropped off door-to-door versus the time spent walking from that parking space once you’ve found one.  In many aspects travel time will be optimized.  And in an optimized system there should be more availability and faster arrival times when hailing.  Use of machine learning to determine where to stage vehicles for anticipated commutes by time of day and other factors will further reduce time between hailing and arrival of a vehicle.  And a global dispatch system could ensure there is always a bit of excess capacity strategically positioned to handle emergency requests.  Finally, emergency vehicles would automatically get priority by broadcasting their position and collaborating with vehicles in their proximity.  So many advantages could be gained as to make the current human-piloted era seem as primitive as we currently would view streets filled with horses and buggies.  
    edited November 2018
  • Reply 17 of 18
    DAalseth said:
    DAalseth said:
    This is pretty much how I expected driverless cars to come in. First experimental systems. Then limited functionality, self parking, lane warning etc. Then things like cabs and shuttle busses in restricted areas. It will only be after more intervening steps, driverless long haul trucking is one I expect to see in a few years, will people be able to walk into a dealership and buy a car without a steering wheel. 
    Not that many will ever actually take possession of such a vehicle. I think automated vehicles and ride hailing, along with the associated decline in the younger generation owning vehicles, are moving lockstep into the future.  By the time a 99.9999% autonomous car is available, the whole ride hailing phenomenon will be at such a high degree of capability that it’ll seem second nature to use such services.  When you’re going to Home Depot to grab some sheetrock or an oversized American backyard gas grill you’ll order an appropriate vehicle for that need, and when you’re going to the beach, picking up five friends along the way, well, there’s a vehicle for that too, along with simple and automated ride share cost sharing among passengers.  Each share will automatically deduct from their individual accounts as they are picked up along the route.  And when you need the kids picked up from soccer practice while you’re still at work, there’s a vehicle/ride share option for that too.  It’ll be a van stationed nearby the soccer field at that time of day, because the global dispatch system will learn/know the habits of the populous in each metro area/region. It’ll be like Bruce Lee; flow like water.  
    That is likely to be how it works out. I have a $25,000 hunk of machinery that sits in my carport or at work 99% of the trime. Why should I own one if there's a ride hailing service I could use. And I like the idea of hailing the vehicle you need for the task. 
    As long as something is nearby, it's convenient. When it's not convenient usually ends up being the one time you need to get somewhere in an emergency situation.
    There’s an app for that.  911.   But on a more serious note, availability and timeliness are certainly major concerns.  In a fully automated world there should be less traffic per passenger mile, as there would be carpooling incentives that would be arranged automatically (you opt for that if you want to pay less and it’s available for any given ride), vehicles will collaborate with one another to reduce space between on highways, routing will automatically take into account traffic conditions and other obstacles or localized delays, with constant monitoring and adjustments enroute, parking (finding a space) will become a thing of the past, and that means you’re picked up and dropped off door-to-door versus the time spent walking from that parking space once you’ve found one.  In many aspects travel time will be optimized.  And in an optimized system there should be more availability and faster arrival times when hailing.  Use of machine learning to determine where to stage vehicles for anticipated commutes by time of day and other factors will further reduce time between hailing and arrival of a vehicle.  And a global dispatch system could ensure there is always a bit of excess capacity strategically positioned to handle emergency requests.  Finally, emergency vehicles would automatically get priority by broadcasting their position and collaborating with vehicles in their proximity.  So many advantages could be gained as to make the current human-piloted era seem as primitive as we currently would view streets filled with horses and buggies.  
    On the other hand, ever step into a cab or rental car in which the previous customer had done something offensive? THAT is the reason ridesharing does not interest me. I’ve ridden enough public buses, trains and subways to know that unattended things which are heavily trafficked get disgusting. People who own things tend to take better care of them.
    edited November 2018 mac_dogwelshdog
  • Reply 18 of 18
    DAalseth said:
    This is pretty much how I expected driverless cars to come in. First experimental systems. Then limited functionality, self parking, lane warning etc. Then things like cabs and shuttle busses in restricted areas. It will only be after more intervening steps, driverless long haul trucking is one I expect to see in a few years, will people be able to walk into a dealership and buy a car without a steering wheel. 
    Not that many will ever actually take possession of such a vehicle. I think automated vehicles and ride hailing, along with the associated decline in the younger generation owning vehicles, are moving lockstep into the future.  By the time a 99.9999% autonomous car is available, the whole ride hailing phenomenon will be at such a high degree of capability that it’ll seem second nature to use such services.  When you’re going to Home Depot to grab some sheetrock or an oversized American backyard gas grill you’ll order an appropriate vehicle for that need, and when you’re going to the beach, picking up five friends along the way, well, there’s a vehicle for that too, along with simple and automated ride share cost sharing among passengers.  Each share will automatically deduct from their individual accounts as they are picked up along the route.  And when you need the kids picked up from soccer practice while you’re still at work, there’s a vehicle/ride share option for that too.  It’ll be a van stationed nearby the soccer field at that time of day, because the global dispatch system will learn/know the habits of the populous in each metro area/region. It’ll be like Bruce Lee; flow like water.  
    On one hand, I agree with you.  On the other, it seems impossible.  It all comes down to where you live.  In urban centers this is a no-brainer.   Out in the 'burbs or rural areas with lower population densities and longer distances to travel, I'm very skeptical.  Americans already own more cars (and trucks) than they really need, and I expect that trend to continue.  But instead of every family in my neighborhood owning an SUV, a truck, and a minivan, perhaps in 10 or 20 years we'll be down to an average of 1 car.  I'll guess we'll have to wait and see.
    Yes, I totally agree.   The suburbs were designed for cars.   Even getting to mass transit usually involves a car.   Few suburbanites or rural residents are going to use a taxi -- even an automated, self-driving one -- for daily use.

    But then there's another factor to the equation:
    Back at the time of the Jetson's when America was seeing a future of unlimited technical progress, it was pointed out that the vast majority of traffic fatalities were due to human error.  So, the futuristic assumption was that, at some point we would eliminate the driver and let machines do it correctly and safely.   And too, part of that was a redesign of roadways to help cars communicate with each other and avoid mishaps.

    I think we are at a point right now where this technology is just being developed and dipping its toes into the water.  We have yet to see its full potential -- and we probably won't for another 20-30 years.
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