Waymo One launches as world's first commercial autonomous taxi service

Posted:
in General Discussion
On Wednesday Alphabet's Waymo unit debuted Waymo One, a first-of-its-kind paid autonomous taxi service, though the initial customer base will be limited for now.

Waymo One


The first customers will be "several hundred" people drawn from Waymo's 400-person Early Rider group based in four Phoenix, Ariz. suburbs, Waymo product head Dan Chu told The Verge. The Early Riders have been enjoying free rides since April last year as Waymo tests technology, and in fact what's left of the group will keep that privilege.

Chu declined to say when the wider public might gain access, saying that will be determined as data comes in.

"We want to understand each step," he said. "How are people responding? How are people feeling? Then, as people are comfortable with that, it means we can broaden out."

For the foreseeable future Waymo One rides will still include backup drivers, though the plan is to try out different "configurations" and ultimately jettison drivers entirely after trying the idea in the Early Rider program. The backup drivers are as much about mental comfort for passengers as having a failsafe.

Waymo One is relying on a fleet of modified Chrysler Pacifica minivans. To start a ride, passengers must tap a digital button on a headrest display or physical button on a roof panel. That panel also includes buttons for locking the doors, pulling over, and calling for help.

Riders summon a car using an app for iOS and Android which isn't yet in Apple or Google's app stores, and in some cases people may be asked to walk a short distance to an easier pickup point. Pricing is roughly in line with human-piloted ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, but may drop once humans are no longer required.

Today, we're taking the next step in our journey with the introduction of our commercial self-driving service, Waymo One. #everystep https://t.co/Sg2a5wRVfM pic.twitter.com/kRZtA4gRda

-- Waymo (@Waymo)


As it expands, Waymo's long-term plans include buying up to 62,000 Pacifica plug-in hybrids, and some 20,000 electric Jaguar I-Pace SUVs. The company still has obstacles to overcome, including improving handling of unprotected left-hand turns, and any public resistance in places like Silicon Valley, where Waymo recently secured permission to run driverless vehicles.

Phoenix is also an unusually ideal location for early self-driving systems, with easy road layouts and dry weather. Waymo vehicles will eventually have to cope with complex roads and conditions like snow and ice if the company hopes to succeed.

Apple is believed to be well behind Waymo in self-driving technology. The company not only started later but regressed from a full-fledged EV to simple platform development.

A small fleet of Apple-modified test vehicles is currently on the roads -- the company's ultimate goal is a mystery though, possibly involving partnership with a ridehailing service, or alternately returning to a self-designed car. The latter would demand massive investments in infrastructure and/or partnering with third-party dealers and manufacturers.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,062member
    Is this really a launch? I mean, every single definition is stretched to the max. Available to an extremely small subset (ie. a couple hundred) people, who were already in a small subset of volunteer beta testers in a single city. Oh, and these "autonomous" cars still include "backup drivers". This "launch" sounds great for headlines, but is nowhere near being anything that is acceptable for prime time.
    gilly33watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 21
    The Early Riders have been enjoying free rides since April last year as Waymo tests technology, and in fact what's left of the group will keep that privilege.
    LOL that sounds like you're talking about SURVIVORS.
    watto_cobraijalex
  • Reply 3 of 21
    slurpy said:
    Is this really a launch? I mean, every single definition is stretched to the max. Available to an extremely small subset (ie. a couple hundred) people, who were already in a small subset of volunteer beta testers in a single city. Oh, and these "autonomous" cars still include "backup drivers". This "launch" sounds great for headlines, but is nowhere near being anything that is acceptable for prime time.
    You're completely right due to all of the qualifiers but when the history of driverless vehicles is written, this may be considered the first commercial example of people paying for driverless cars. We'll probably find out later if the back up drivers have to intervene and if it doesn't happen more than once in a very long while then I think we can count this as a fairly historic step along the way.
    edited December 5
  • Reply 4 of 21
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,089member
    slurpy said:
    Is this really a launch? I mean, every single definition is stretched to the max. Available to an extremely small subset (ie. a couple hundred) people, who were already in a small subset of volunteer beta testers in a single city. Oh, and these "autonomous" cars still include "backup drivers". This "launch" sounds great for headlines, but is nowhere near being anything that is acceptable for prime time.
    You're completely right due to all of the qualifiers but when the history of driverless vehicles is written, this may be considered the first commercial example of people paying for driverless cars. We'll probably find out later if the back up drivers have to intervene and if it does happen more than once in a very long while then I think we can count this as a fairly historic step along the way.
    The Early Riders have been enjoying free rides since April last year as Waymo tests technology ... “
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 21
    slurpy said:
    Is this really a launch?
    It is operating on public roads carrying paying customers who do not work for the company. I would give that a pass. :) (I get what you are saying... it is a *very* limited launch.)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,414member
    jorgie said:
    slurpy said:
    Is this really a launch?
    It is operating on public roads carrying paying customers who do not work for the company. I would give that a pass. :) (I get what you are saying... it is a *very* limited launch.)
    Yes, Waymo is operating an autonomous "taxi service" on public roads carrying non-employee passengers.
  • Reply 7 of 21
    knowitall said:
    slurpy said:
    Is this really a launch? I mean, every single definition is stretched to the max. Available to an extremely small subset (ie. a couple hundred) people, who were already in a small subset of volunteer beta testers in a single city. Oh, and these "autonomous" cars still include "backup drivers". This "launch" sounds great for headlines, but is nowhere near being anything that is acceptable for prime time.
    You're completely right due to all of the qualifiers but when the history of driverless vehicles is written, this may be considered the first commercial example of people paying for driverless cars. We'll probably find out later if the back up drivers have to intervene and if it does happen more than once in a very long while then I think we can count this as a fairly historic step along the way.
    “The Early Riders have been enjoying free rides since April last year as Waymo tests technology ... “
    Yes, I read the article thanks.
  • Reply 8 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,414member
    knowitall said:
    slurpy said:
    Is this really a launch? I mean, every single definition is stretched to the max. Available to an extremely small subset (ie. a couple hundred) people, who were already in a small subset of volunteer beta testers in a single city. Oh, and these "autonomous" cars still include "backup drivers". This "launch" sounds great for headlines, but is nowhere near being anything that is acceptable for prime time.
    You're completely right due to all of the qualifiers but when the history of driverless vehicles is written, this may be considered the first commercial example of people paying for driverless cars. We'll probably find out later if the back up drivers have to intervene and if it does happen more than once in a very long while then I think we can count this as a fairly historic step along the way.
    “The Early Riders have been enjoying free rides since April last year as Waymo tests technology ... “
    This is now transitioning to a paid transportation service ala' Uber rather than free. That's what is being announced in the AI article since the previously free testing period is being discontinued per the Google announcement.
  • Reply 9 of 21
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,089member
    gatorguy said:
    knowitall said:
    slurpy said:
    Is this really a launch? I mean, every single definition is stretched to the max. Available to an extremely small subset (ie. a couple hundred) people, who were already in a small subset of volunteer beta testers in a single city. Oh, and these "autonomous" cars still include "backup drivers". This "launch" sounds great for headlines, but is nowhere near being anything that is acceptable for prime time.
    You're completely right due to all of the qualifiers but when the history of driverless vehicles is written, this may be considered the first commercial example of people paying for driverless cars. We'll probably find out later if the back up drivers have to intervene and if it does happen more than once in a very long while then I think we can count this as a fairly historic step along the way.
    “The Early Riders have been enjoying free rides since April last year as Waymo tests technology ... “
    This is now transitioning to a paid transportation service ala' Uber rather than free. That's what is being announced in the AI article since the previously free testing period is being discontinued per the Google announcement.
    No it isn’t, not in this article and also in contradiction with: “been enjoying free rides since April last year as Waymo tests technology, and in fact what's left of the group will keep that privilege”
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 21
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,089member

    "We want to understand each step," he said. "How are people responding? How are people feeling? Then, as people are comfortable with that, it means we can broaden out."
    Boy are they in for a head on collision with reality.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 21
    knowitall said:
    gatorguy said:
    knowitall said:
    slurpy said:
    Is this really a launch? I mean, every single definition is stretched to the max. Available to an extremely small subset (ie. a couple hundred) people, who were already in a small subset of volunteer beta testers in a single city. Oh, and these "autonomous" cars still include "backup drivers". This "launch" sounds great for headlines, but is nowhere near being anything that is acceptable for prime time.
    You're completely right due to all of the qualifiers but when the history of driverless vehicles is written, this may be considered the first commercial example of people paying for driverless cars. We'll probably find out later if the back up drivers have to intervene and if it does happen more than once in a very long while then I think we can count this as a fairly historic step along the way.
    “The Early Riders have been enjoying free rides since April last year as Waymo tests technology ... “
    This is now transitioning to a paid transportation service ala' Uber rather than free. That's what is being announced in the AI article since the previously free testing period is being discontinued per the Google announcement.
    No it isn’t, not in this article and also in contradiction with: “been enjoying free rides since April last year as Waymo tests technology, and in fact what's left of the group will keep that privilege”
    This article doesn't have as many details as e.g. over at the Verge. There was a larger group getting free rides and some of them, I believe were completely driverless. Now that Waymo feels they have that sorted, they are moving to a paid system for some people. They can fine tunes the system and understand what people are willing to pay compared to Uber etc. But for the paid service, they've added the driver back in
    gatorguy
  • Reply 12 of 21
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,358member
    knowitall said:

    "We want to understand each step," he said. "How are people responding? How are people feeling? Then, as people are comfortable with that, it means we can broaden out."
    Boy are they in for a head on collision with reality.
    As soon as there are a few serious accidents or deaths, politicians will get involved because they love issues like this - they're easy to understand and they prey on the public's hatred for large companies and their fears about technology (whether valid or not).   And if a car gets hacked? - it's all over.    You'll start to see local legislation banning autonomous vehicles.   And you'll probably also see huge support for such legislation from the few unions that are left in this country - in fact, this might wind up being an issue that brings the Right and Left together.    Once autonomous vehicles are banned from some locales, they'll fail because who is going to buy or lease a car that can't go everywhere and there isn't enough of a business just making cars to replace taxis and delivery vehicles.  

    Furthermore (and at the risk of sounding both sexist and buying into stereotypes), I don't think macho male drivers in the U.S. will accept autonomous cars that can't exceed the speed limit and they also won't want to give up control to the car.    I have serious doubts whether autonomous cars can ever be a success for ordinary people (with the possible exception of being able to such things as put your kids in such a car, have the car drop them off somewhere, automatically return home so other family members can use the car and then the car autonomously returns to pick up the kids and drives them home).   But then the question becomes as to whether autonomous cars are going to put more cars or the road or fewer?   We already have gridlock in so many places.    On the other hand, I think all of these new accident avoidance systems are something that consumers want and will accept.   
    edited December 5 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 21
    zoetmb said:
    knowitall said:

    "We want to understand each step," he said. "How are people responding? How are people feeling? Then, as people are comfortable with that, it means we can broaden out."
    Boy are they in for a head on collision with reality.
    As soon as there are a few serious accidents or deaths, politicians will get involved because they love issues like this - they're easy to understand and they prey on the public's hatred for large companies and their fears about technology (whether valid or not).   And if a car gets hacked? - it's all over.    You'll start to see local legislation banning autonomous vehicles.   And you'll probably also see huge support for such legislation from the few unions that are left in this country - in fact, this might wind up being an issue that brings the Right and Left together.    Once autonomous vehicles are banned from some locales, they'll fail because who is going to buy or lease a car that can't go everywhere and there isn't enough of a business just making cars to replace taxis and delivery vehicles.  

    Furthermore (and at the risk of sounding both sexist and buying into stereotypes), I don't think macho male drivers in the U.S. will accept autonomous cars that can't exceed the speed limit and they also won't want to give up control to the car.    I have serious doubts whether autonomous cars can ever be a success for ordinary people (with the possible exception of being able to such things as put your kids in such a car, have the car drop them off somewhere, automatically return home so other family members can use the car and then the car autonomously returns to pick up the kids and drives them home).   But then the question becomes as to whether autonomous cars are going to put more cars or the road or fewer?   We already have gridlock in so many places.    On the other hand, I think all of these new accident avoidance systems are something that consumers want and will accept.   
    History suggests that politicians are quite happy to let corporations get away with more than a few serious accidents or deaths. There are many corporations that pollute our air and water, they make cars that crash and kill people, the make guns, they make addictive drugs, they sell junk food to our children, they use slave labour to make shoes. I'd guess it's the media that will be more likely to look at every autonomous car death and ignore the hundreds of conventional ones. But eventually the public will realise that if they are safer and more convenient then for many people they are better. Yeah, the macho types may not want them. They don't even want EVs that perform better than many petrol cars. But half the country are women. A large proportion of men mellow out with age. And if it's shown that autonomous cars are safer then you'll see plenty of families getting them. I'm guessing we'll see taxis/delivery vehicles go full autonomous but the rest of the population will be drip fed autonomy the Tesla route - on highways first, limited functionality, then off ramps, then in the suburbs and before you know it, you're in the mountains. It could take 20 years but that's not so long.
  • Reply 14 of 21
    zoetmb said:
    knowitall said:

    "We want to understand each step," he said. "How are people responding? How are people feeling? Then, as people are comfortable with that, it means we can broaden out."
    Boy are they in for a head on collision with reality.
    As soon as there are a few serious accidents or deaths, politicians will get involved because they love issues like this - they're easy to understand and they prey on the public's hatred for large companies and their fears about technology (whether valid or not).   And if a car gets hacked? - it's all over.    You'll start to see local legislation banning autonomous vehicles.   And you'll probably also see huge support for such legislation from the few unions that are left in this country - in fact, this might wind up being an issue that brings the Right and Left together.    Once autonomous vehicles are banned from some locales, they'll fail because who is going to buy or lease a car that can't go everywhere and there isn't enough of a business just making cars to replace taxis and delivery vehicles.  

    Furthermore (and at the risk of sounding both sexist and buying into stereotypes), I don't think macho male drivers in the U.S. will accept autonomous cars that can't exceed the speed limit and they also won't want to give up control to the car.    I have serious doubts whether autonomous cars can ever be a success for ordinary people (with the possible exception of being able to such things as put your kids in such a car, have the car drop them off somewhere, automatically return home so other family members can use the car and then the car autonomously returns to pick up the kids and drives them home).   But then the question becomes as to whether autonomous cars are going to put more cars or the road or fewer?   We already have gridlock in so many places.    On the other hand, I think all of these new accident avoidance systems are something that consumers want and will accept.   
    there are serious accidents and deaths every day due to human drivers. Not convinced deaths on automatic cars will stop their eventual adoption. It will of likely delay adoption. The benefits of automatic cars, and ride sharing are too great to ignore, particularly around the areas of ride sharing giving environmental benefits. Politicians here in the UK are desperate to do anything that will get emissions down. Well if automatic cars start getting shared on the way to work, and a fully utilised, I can see politicians really liking autonomous cars.

    Personally I would like an autonomous car, I see commuting to work in the car as "dead time", would rather spend that time doing something productive.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 21
    The riders are also test ones. They are Google employees.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,414member
    sirozha said:
    They are Google employees.
    Nope.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 17 of 21

    This is something like those medical test candidates who try experimental drugs and cures. The only difference is that these people are paying for the experiment as opposed to being paid for it.

    That's a whole new level of "pioneers"!


    P.S. I accidently typed in "expirement" rather than "experiment". I wonder if I should have left that Freudian Slip in.

    watto_cobraijalex
  • Reply 18 of 21
    This is cool and all but I can’t help but think about the Wall-e movie... we are getting more and more dependent on technology. One day people won’t even know how to drive. Maybe we should just go back to horses.😂🍻
  • Reply 19 of 21
    ...
    edited December 10
  • Reply 20 of 21

    This is something like those medical test candidates who try experimental drugs and cures. The only difference is that these people are paying for the experiment as opposed to being paid for it.

    That's a whole new level of "pioneers"!


    P.S. I accidently typed in "expirement" rather than "experiment". I wonder if I should have left that Freudian Slip in.

    So true! They should of started with chimps :D   People are so in a rush to be the first they will pay for it now... 
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