Waymo is gearing up for the self-driving future by exploring how the new technology impacts existing infrastructure and creates new experiences. The latest involves a partnership with an Arizona public transportation system to have autonomous vehicles solve the “last mile” challenge.
The Alphabet division thinks that public transportation plays an “integral part of our cities,” noting the social, economic, and environmental benefits. It hopes that autonomous technology will help “better utilize the investments and infrastructure that already exist today.”
That’s why cities around the world invest significant resources to build and maintain public infrastructure — light rail, trains, and buses — that help people commute and move around.
However, the broad nature of these mass-serving systems means they cannot take every passenger to a precise endpoint. This “last mile” challenge deals with how people “connect to public transportation efficiently, affordably, and safely.”
Waymo thinks self-driving cars could be the solution to this gap and is partnering with the Phoenix Valley Metro public transportation authority to “explore mobility solutions that use self-driving technology to better connect travelers with the city’s existing buses and light rail.”
Staring in August, these city employees will be able to hail a Waymo ride to take them to the nearest public transportation option at either the start or end of a trip. Waymo will then expand the partnership to Valley Metro RideChoice travelers “traditionally underserved by public transit.”
This will form the basis of joint research to evaluate the adoption of Waymo technology, its impact, and its long-term potential to enable greater access to public transit.
In the future, Waymo and the transit authority hope to expand the program to more people in the Phoenix area.