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Waymo is unleashing its self-driving cars on the world (well, Phoenix, AZ)

Autobots, roll out!

waymo's self-driving cars go live
Image: Curbed

The future is here – and it’s driverless. Sort-of.

Waymo’s been working on self-driving taxis for nearly a decade now since before the Waymo name was even a thing. Today, it rolls out the start of its commercial self-driving service, under the guise of Waymo One.

Back in August, it didn’t look like the Alphabet-owned company would make their goal of offering driverless taxis before the end of the year. It technically hasn’t met that goal, with safety drivers in the fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans that are driving themselves around Phoenix, AZ.

The company has already racked up 10 million driverless miles (and over 5 billion in simulation) with the cars, so it’s a fair bet that safety driver won’t be needed for long.

More about the automated vehicles

The launch is still small enough to be a test – only 400 people have access to the service, all of which were already involved in testing the cars over the last 18 months. Waymo has said they want to make the service available to more of the public over time.

There is one crucial difference to the ridership now – the NDA that they signed for the private testing is no longer in force. Expect social media to get flooded with selfies from the back of Waymo’s customized Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

The Waymo One service will be 24/7 and riders hail their new robotic drivers from an app. The service directly competes against Uber and Lyft, so it’ll be interesting to see where customers decide to put their money.

GM’s Cruise is also a direct competitor

With General Motor’s competing Cruise service not expected until next year, Waymo’s kept its lead in the autonomous ride-hailing race. Investors have gone crazy for the future, with Cruise being worth $14.6 billion and Morgan Stanley arguing that Waymo is worth $175 billion.

With other competing services coming from Ford and some startups, the only thing that’s for sure is that more driverless vehicles will be on the road. For me, while I love the technology behind it – I’m already nervous enough when on the roads. Maybe if all the traffic is autonomous I’d feel differently.

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