Waymo, a unit of Alphabet Inc., launched this week the first driverless-car service in the U.S. The service, called Waymo One, works just like other popular ride-hailing providers – punch a button on your cellphone to summon a ride, which arrives in minutes. And while there’s a human in the driver’s seat, they’re not in charge of the vehicle.
Robots are in charge. And there could soon be thousands of robotaxis on the road.
Waymo says the trained drivers are present only “to supervise our vehicles for riders’ comfort and convenience.”
In April 2017, Waymo first invited members of the public to ride in their cars through the early rider program. The company says it chose a “diverse and passionate group” to give feedback to refine the product. More than 400 people currently have access to the service as part of an “early riders” program.
“Early riders used our self-driving vehicles to take courses at a local college, commute to work and to high school, accompany a vision-impaired aunt shopping, get to book club each week, connect to buses, and try new restaurants on date night,” Waymo said in a blog post. “And, their feedback along the way has helped us refine our technology and design features that meet their needs. Based on their comments we worked on ways to streamline pickups, made it easy to contact support for questions, and began operating our service at at all times of the day.”