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Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana tweeted yesterday that the company would open up fully driverless, autonomous robotaxi rides in downtown Phoenix to its trusted tester program members today. The company kicked off the program yesterday when Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego hailed a trip with one of the company’s robotaxis.
Waymo is branding the rides as “rider only” trips to indicate that there is no safety driver behind the wheel of Waymo’s autonomous Jaguar I-Pace EVs.
The service is currently only available to Waymo’s trusted tester service members, who sign non-disclosure agreements preventing them from posting about the rides or discussing them with journalists. Waymo said it plans to open it up to members of the public in the future.
The company has been testing its technology in Phoenix since 2017. Waymo began driving in the Phoenix suburbs of Chandler, Tempe and Mesa in 2020. In May 2022, it announced it would open up rides in downtown Phoenix to its employees.
Waymo is delivering one of the keynotes at RoboBusiness, which runs Oct. 19-20 in Santa Clara and is produced by WTWH Media, parent company of The Robot Report. Allison Thackston, technical lead & manager at Waymo, will discuss on Oct. 19 from 9:30-10:15 AM the technical challenges of developing autonomous vehicles. She will also provide updates on Waymo’s ongoing deployments and work. Prior to Waymo, Thackston worked at Nuro, Toyota Research Institute and Oceaneering. She’s also a founding member of the ROS2 Technical Steering Committee.
Waymo has also been working to roll its service out in San Francisco. In March 2022, it announced that it would be giving driverless rids to its employees in the city. The news came less than a month after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued Waymo a Drivered Deployment permit, allowing the company to charge for its autonomous rides.
I had the opportunity to take my first rider only trip with the #WaymoDriver, @Waymo’s fully autonomous driving technology. Phoenicians, I can’t wait for you to experience it for yourselves! Check out the Waymo One app to learn more. #thefutureisphoenix https://t.co/dWVOa2jEAK pic.twitter.com/ODhWBbJkSw
— Mayor Kate Gallego (@MayorGallego) August 29, 2022
While Waymo has made great strides in San Francisco, it’s not the only company with its sights on the city. Cruise, another autonomous vehicle developer, has been testing its technology in San Francisco since 2021, when it began testing with safety drivers. In June 2022, Cruise began charging for autonomous rides in the city.
Waymo’s autonomous driving technology isn’t just for robotaxis, it’s also developing autonomous trucks. In November 2021, the company began a six-week pilot with UPS to test its Waymo Via’s Class 8 trucks in Texas.
Waymo has more than 700 vehicles in its fleet, which is made up of a mix of Jaguar I-Pace EVs, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans and Class 8 trucks. Waymo is the self-driving vehicle technology unit of Google parent Alphabet.