Waymo Will Roll out World's First Driverless Ride-Hailing Service in December
While Uber and Lyft roll out their loyalty programs, a new competitor with game-changing technology is on the horizon for the ride-hailing giants.
Waymo, Google's self-driving car company, plans on launching its own ride-hailing service in December, Bloomberg reports.
Waymo will rebrand the service with a new name, which is still unknown, when it commences operations in Phoenix, Arizona, next month.
Rides still won't be open to the general public, and you won't immediately be able to download an app. Waymo plans on picking "dozens or hundreds of authorized riders" while it slowly rolls out the service in a 100-square-mile area in the Phoenix suburbs.
The autonomous vehicles have already been operating and carrying volunteer passengers in Phoenix for more than a year, but those apart of the program were bound by a non-disclosure agreement that forced them to stay silent on the program.
Now, passengers will be able to post pictures to social media, talk to media about their experience or bring others along for rides. Waymo will slowly add new customers and cars to its fleet as it optimizes the program.
"There will be backup drivers in some cars to help ease customers into the service and to take over if necessary," Bloomberg's Waymo source reported. But that means there will be some cars without any backup driver and as a time goes on, Waymo will phase out these failsafes. The company's fleet will primarily be composed of Chrysler Pacifica minivans.
Riders will order a self-driving vehicle in an app that looks similar to Uber, Lyft and Google Maps combined.
"Waymo will offer straightforward fares that are competitive with Uber and Lyft," Bloomberg writes. As backup drivers are drawn down and Waymo adds in-ride advertising and purchasable entertainment options, analysts say fares will be reduced.
Uber and Lyft are working on self-driving car programs of their own, although Uber has faced significant setbacks, even with one vehicle killing a pedestrian. Tesla's Elon Musk also plans on launching a similar service with his electric vehicles.
Since 2009, Google has been developing and testing its self-driving car that's now driven more than 10 million miles. Bloomberg intelligent mobility analyst Nick Albanese said that Waymo's closet competitor GM is more than a year away from a self-driving car program this robust.