Five months after expanding its service area to include denser, more complicated portions of the city, Alphabet-owned Waymo’s completely autonomous vehicles are now picking up passengers in downtown Phoenix.
Since the beginning of 2017, Waymo has been testing its vehicles in a number of Phoenix suburbs, including Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, and Gilbert. It also runs a for-profit ride-hailing service called Waymo One, employing both safety drivers and vehicles without them. Earlier this year, the business increased its service area to encompass downtown Phoenix.
The business introduced its Trusted Tester programme last year, which is really just a rebranded version of the early rider programme it ran in a suburban Phoenix area. Customers who are interested in using Waymo’s robotaxis sign nondisclosure agreements to gain access to the startup’s early technology after joining a wait list and being approved.
These people can now travel in the completely autonomous cars operated by Waymo in Phoenix’s downtown. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego was among the first users of these “rider only” vehicles, and in a video created by Waymo, she expressed her hope that the service will make Phoenix a “more inclusive city.”
Eventually, the service will grow to include regular customers who are free to speak publicly (and post on social media) about their experiences using Waymo’s autonomous vehicles — just as they do in the suburban towns outside of Phoenix. That can result in some embarrassing headlines, such as when a driverless Waymo van got stuck at an intersection in Chandler, prompting the company to send a roadside assistance team to come extract it.
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