Alphabet’s self-driving car division announced they’ve been operating their autonomous mini-vans on public roads in the Phoenix Arizona since mid-October, making them the first company to successfully do so.
Soon, the company birthed from Google’s moonshot research lab will invite everyday people to ride in their driverless roadsters — because, as Waymo’s CEO John Krafcik exclaimed, “Fully self-driving cars are here.”
With a few caveats…
Ok, so Waymo employees are actually still in the vehicle during operation, but instead of at the wheel, the employee will most likely veg out behind the driver’s seat.
The cars will also have boundaries — geofenced within a 100-square-mile area in Phoenix — though they plan to expand as soon as they get their road-legs. And, only members of Waymo’s Early Rider program can participate for the time being.
Stips or no stips, this is still huge
Yes, there’s still a long way to go, but Waymo’s confidence in their autonomous vehicles ups the ante for companies like Volvo, BMW, and Tesla, which have all been hobbling toward the finish line.
While they’re still trying to reach full autonomy, Waymo’s moving on to the next stage of their plan…
Creating a full-fledged autonomous ride-hailing service
While the company has many plans for their driverless future, the “Waymo driverless [ride-hailing] service” is their first focus.
The company already has plans to quintuple the 100 vehicles currently in testing, to expand their pilot system quickly to the masses. And, at the conference, Krafcik announced that once it’s available to the public, the service will be “as easy as using an app.”
In other words, it’ll be just like Lyft and Uber only with no driver trying to “wow” you with their phone charger collection.