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Waymo robotaxis are coming to Uber’s ride-hailing platform. The companies announced a multi-year partnership that will make the Waymo Driver available on Uber starting in Phoenix.
The companies plan to launch the integration publicly later in 2023, with a set number of Waymo vehicles across its 180-square-mile operating territory in Phoenix. The services offered will include local deliveries and ride-hailing trips. Phoenix riders can still hail a robotaxi directly from the Waymo One app as well.
“We’re excited to offer another way for people to experience the enjoyable and life-saving benefits of full autonomy,” Tekedra Mawakana, co-CEO of Waymo, said. “Uber has long been a leader in human-operated ridesharing, and the pairing of our pioneering technology and all-electric fleet with their customer network provides Waymo with an opportunity to reach even more people.”
“Uber provides access to a global and reliable marketplace across mobility, delivery, and freight,” Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, said. “Fully autonomous driving is quickly becoming part of everyday life, and we’re excited to bring Waymo’s incredible technology to the Uber platform.”
Earlier this month, Waymo expanded its service area in both Phoenix and San Francisco. In the Phoenix metro, the company has connected its downtown and East Valley territories. This expansion covers Scottsdale, a first for the company, and will also cover nearly all of Tempe and give additional access to Chandler and Mesa.
In San Francisco, Waymo recently gave its Trusted Testers access to Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, and the company is continuing to onboard new riders in the city.
The company plans to continue expanding its service in San Francisco and Phoenix, as well as in new cities. Waymo announced in October 2022 that it is testing its ride-hail service in Los Angeles, and earlier this year, it began completely driverless testing in the city.
Waymo began as Google’s self-driving car project in 2009. It has more than 700 vehicles in its fleet, comprising a mix of Jaguar I-PACE EVs, Chrysler Pacific Hybrid minivans and Class 8 trucks.
Overcoming past troubles
Of course, Uber itself was once developing autonomous vehicles under its Uber ATG unit. After a tumultuous journey, however, Uber sold the unit to Aurora in 2020. Not only was it a money-losing endeavor, an Uber autonomous vehicle killed a woman in Arizona in 2018.
Interestingly, Uber’s in-house autonomous vehicle efforts also included a lawsuit with Waymo. In 2016, Uber acquired autonomous trucking startup Otto for $680 million. Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski, who helped build Google’s first self-driving car, was fired in 2017 as Waymo sued Uber for stealing trade secrets. The two companies settled the lawsuit in February 2018 for $250 million in equity. Two years after acquiring Otto, Uber in July 2018 shut down the project in a desperate attempt to salvage its self-driving car efforts.
But all that seems to be water under the bridge as the companies look to scale the availability and usage of autonomous vehicles.