For the past year, Waymo has been testing an autonomous ride service in Phoenix, Arizona ahead of public availability. CEO John Krafcik last night revealed that a launch is coming in the next two months, while another report details how the Alphabet company will be directly competing against Lyft and Uber.
At a Wall Street Journal conference last night, Krafcik confirmed a launch of the long-expected Waymo self-driving car service in the next two months. A ‘by the end of 2018’ date has been thrown around for the past year, with the Alphabet bet just sneaking under the wire.
The Waymo CEO added that he expects businesses that want to chauffeur customers around to be a big source of revenue. Named companies include shopping retailer Walmart and rental service Avis.
Meanwhile, a Bloomberg report this week detailed that the Waymo service will launch under a new brand. At the moment, the Phoenix testing is called the “Early Rider Program.” The goal is to compete directly with Lyft and Uber, even as Google and other Alphabet divisions have working and investment relationships with the two industry leaders.
The initial launch will be a milestone for self-driving technology, but Waymo might be planning to limit service to authorized riders in a 100 square mile area of Phoenix suburbs. Additionally, the first group of passengers might be the existing 400 families in the Early Rider Program.
Pricing has yet to be announced, with passengers using a traditional app to hail rides. In the long run, autonomous vehicles are expected to be much cheaper than vehicles with human drivers.
Human backup drivers might still be present at the launch of the commercial program. New customers will be “gradually phased in,” according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, Google will continue a beta program to test new features.
Looking forward, Waymo is planning to expand availability and begin other Early Rider Programs. For example, the company recently received approval in California to test the driverless cars and could begin consumer testing in the state at any point.
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