(Pocket-lint) - Remember Waymo? Well, for the first time, it is offering ride services to members of the public.
Waymo is a startup that Google created for its self-driving car project late last year. Now, Waymo is launching an “early rider program” in the state of Arizona. Starting 25 April, residents of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area can sign up for free, unlimited rides in a Waymo self-driving minivan. Waymo said a test driver will be available behind the wheel at all times, however.
Waymo is using this new program to study the business of on-demand, driverless cars and their impact on people's daily lives. If you live in Arizona and are interested in the program, sign up on the company’s website. Rides will be available in not only Phoenix, but also surrounding places like Gilbert, Tempe, and Chandler - equaling an area twice the size of San Francisco.
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Waymo said it will select “hundreds” of riders based on the types of trips they want to take and their desire to use a self-driving service as their primary means of transportation. Waymo’s vehicles - 500 Chrysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with laser sensors and other autonomous technology - will be able to drive without human intervention unless it's needed.
The company already has 100 self-driving minivans on the streets of Mountain View, and it has been providing trips to select people (friends of Waymo employees) for months. Now, however, Waymo is finally ready bring its self-driving cars to more communities and more people. Waymo said it already has approval from the city of Phoenix and the surrounding towns as well.
In fact, in a statement, Arizona’s Department of Transportation said: “Arizona’s approach to self-driving technology is one of cooperation, common sense and embracing innovation. Arizona stands ready to continue working with Waymo/Google and other companies developing autonomous technology… ADOT looks forward to the next phase of Waymo’s testing in Arizona.”
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Waymo’s early rider program will be limited at launch. If you’re an approved rider, you can hail a minivan using the Waymo app, which both Pocket-lint and the general public has not yet seen or used. Again, all the rides in the program will be free, but riders will be asked to share their experience so that Waymo can learn things like where people want to go in a self-driving car.
Waymo is also interested in how people communicate with its vehicles and what information and controls they want to see inside.