Waymo – an offshoot of the Google self-driving car project – has launched a self-driving car service in Phoenix, Arizona.
Waymo One, which is the company’s first commercial taxi service, is just like Uber except there’s no driver to force awkward conversation with.
People in metropolitan Phoenix who were involved in the company’s early testing can now use the Waymo app to request an autonomous vehicle 24/7, just like you would with Uber or Lyft.
Similar to other ride-sharing companies, Waymo uses price estimates, user and ride reviews, and allows up to three adults and a child to travel in a single trip.
Waymo is being cautious, though – the initial phase of the program finds human drivers that are ready to take over the vehicle if anything happens. To ensure maximum safety, Waymo gives users access to 24/7 phone and chat support that answers questions and offers assistance.
All going well, the company plans to introduce Waymo One to the public and transition to fully driverless transport. It’s just down to gaining public and governmental trust, which is only a matter of time.
However, it may take longer than the Alphabet-owned company would like to admit. In October, a Waymo car crashed because its human driver fell asleep.
The autonomous vehicle wasn’t in self-driving mode at the time, but it was negative publicity that doesn’t help with public perception over the safety of driverless vehicles.
That’s why Waymo is taking things slowly. The company has permission to test fully driverless cars in California, but is a ways from launching its autonomous taxi service across the country.
Driverless technology is proven, but long-term plans hinge on legislation as much, if not more than they do on traffic incidents and safety.
Once governments, drivers and the motor vehicle industry embrace and push-forward driverless technology, the benefits will be enormous.
Imagine just having a car available, for an affordable price, whenever you need it. A driverless taxi could pick you up and drop you to work, assist hundreds of people while you’re working, then return to drive you home.
Such technology will cut down massively on fuel emissions, lessen traffic on the roads and make driving anywhere more efficient. Not to mention you’ll be able to multi-task while driving – legally.
It’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’, and I for one can’t wait to see the driverless revolution take place.
[Feature image courtesy of Waymo]