Waymo is suspending some of its autonomous vehicle programs due to COVID-19, which is the disease the coronavirus causes. The company announced it has temporarily shut down its Waymo One ride-hailing service in the Phoenix area, which allows the public to ride in self-driving vehicles with trained human safety operators behind the wheel, and its testing on public roads in California.
Waymo will, however, move forward with some of its fully autonomous vehicle programs. “For now,” Waymo will continue its fully driverless service in Phoenix and its UPS delivery services and truck testing. Waymo said, “we can carry out driverless, delivery, and trucking services for our riders and partners while respecting the important social distancing and hygiene guidelines shared by the CDC and local authorities.”
The company had previously announced that it is increasing efforts to keep its autonomous vehicles clean. The vehicles will be cleaned and sanitized several times throughout the day. Waymo also added sanitizing products to every Waymo car for rider use.
Waymo said these moves follow guidance from the federal government to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Here is Waymo’s complete statement:
“In the interest of the health and safety of our riders and the entire Waymo community, we’re pausing our Waymo One service with trained drivers in Metro Phoenix for now as we continue to watch COVID-19 developments. We’ve also paused driving in California in line with local guidance.
“Our fully driverless operations in Phoenix will continue for now within our early rider program, along with our local delivery efforts and truck testing.
“We can carry out driverless, delivery, and trucking services for our riders and partners while respecting the important social distancing and hygiene guidelines shared by the CDC and local authorities. Removing the human driver holds great promise for not only for making our roads safer, but for helping our riders stay healthy in these uncertain times.
“We’ll continue to monitor COVID-19 developments carefully, and we’ll reach out to our riders if there are any further service changes. Until then, our Rider Support team will be available to answer any questions.
“Stay healthy, and thanks from all of us at Waymo.”
Waymo recently raised $2.25 billion in its first exteranl round of funding. Waymo is using the money to expand its staff and continue developing self-driving software and hardware. Silver Lake, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), and Mubadala Investment Co. led the round. Other investors included Magna International, Andreessen Horowitz, Autonation, and parent company Alphabet Inc.
The funding round is among the largest so far around self-driving cars. Nuro raised $840 million from the SoftBank Vision Fund a year ago and General Motors’ Cruise unit raised $1.15 billion last May. In 2017, Intel acquired vision startup Mobileye for $15.3 billion.