Waymo, the self-driving car department of Alphabet Inc. (parent company of Google), recently rolled out a test of its autonomous taxi service in Chandler, Arizona. To date, the service has provided 100,000 autonomous taxi rides to customers in the area. Now, the company intends to expand its reach by offering an iOS app that users can download and use to hail an autonomous taxi. Waymo has also unveiled plans for full autonomy of their taxis, an issue the company has struggled with as most of their vehicles still have human ‘safety drivers’ in case of an emergency.
Business is Booming in the Auto Taxi Business
Waymo records its monthly users at 1,500 and has expanded the number of weekly riders three times since January of 2019. The company’s push for fully autonomous taxis can be seen in the “rider only” option that users can choose if they don’t want a human safety driver in their taxi. The choice was only offered to a test group of a few hundred people, and the riders weren’t always charged for their trip. Other passengers pay similar rates as Uber or Lyft, making Waymo’s autonomous taxis competitive with these ride-sharing options.
Expanding Service with iOS App
The app to hail autonomous taxis has been available to Android users since the spring, but Waymo intends to offer the same convenience to iOS users as well. Expanding the user base will allow for more commuters to utilize the service and experience what makes Waymo different. However, these users will have to join a waitlist to start using the service. Waymo is pioneering the use of the robo-taxi, but other companies (including competitors like Uber) are also interested in producing vehicles to do the same. Despite this, car manufacturers like Ford and General Motors seem to be cautiously optimistic about the technology, forging on with their self-driving car technology while noting that the expectations for delivery on the technology are overblown.