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Waymo's driverless vehicles are picking up passengers in downtown Phoenix

Waymo's driverless vehicles are picking up passengers in downtown Phoenix

Waymo's fully driverless vehicles are picking up passengers in downtown Phoenix, five months after the Alphabet-owned company expanded its service area to include denser, more complex areas of the city.

Waymo has been testing its vehicles in several suburban cities outside of Phoenix since early 2017, including Chandler, Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert. It also operates a commercial ride-hailing service called Waymo One, using a mix of vehicles with and without safety drivers. The company expanded its service area to include the city of Phoenix earlier this year.

Last year, the company launched its Trusted Tester program, which is basically a rebranding of the early rider program it ran in suburban Phoenix. Customers interested in using Waymo's Robotaxis join a waiting list and, once approved, sign non-disclosure agreements to gain access to the company's early technology.

Those individuals are now able to ride in fully driverless vehicles in Waymo's downtown Phoenix. One of the first riders to experience these "riders only" vehicles was Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who said in a video produced by Waymo that she hoped the service would make Phoenix a "more inclusive city."

Eventually, the service will grow to include regular customers who are free to publicly (and post on social media) about their experiences using Waymo's autonomous vehicles — just as they do in suburban cities outside Phoenix. Huh. , This could result in some embarrassing headlines, such as when a driverless Waymo van rammed into a Chandler at an intersection, prompting the company to send a roadside support team to retrieve it.

Waymo is close to launching driverless ridewheel service in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, though the company has yet to receive final approval to charge riders for those trips. Here's a list of the company's current deployments, according to Waymo:

Downtown Phoenix: Waymo is now offering paid rider-only trips to employees and trusted testers.
Phoenix Sky Harbor: Currently offering travel from downtown Phoenix to the airport for Waymo employees, with an autonomous specialist in the driver's seat.
San Francisco: Waymo is currently testing rider trips for employees only and paid trips for trusted testers with an autonomous specialist in the driver's seat.
Phoenix East Valley: Currently offering Rider Trip to members of the public only.
Waymo emphasizes that it is the only company that offers public tours in completely driverless mode in several different cities - with "many different cities" being the operative phrase. Cruise, a rival AV company backed by General Motors, is offering night-only driverless rides in downtown San Francisco.

The expansion of Waymo's driverless service to Phoenix signals the company's growing sense of confidence that its vehicles can operate safely and efficiently in more dense, urban environments. Cruz likes to point out that it's focused on dense cities like San Francisco, as opposed to Waymo's approach of starting out in dry, flat, sunny, and less dense environments like Chandler. Going forward, those criticisms are likely to weigh less.

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