Waymo, the secretive subsidiary of Google’s parent company named Alphabet Inc. is now planning to launch the world’s first driverless car service as early as December this year.
According to one person familiar with the plans, Waymo’s initiative aims to operate under a new brand and stand as a direct competitor to Uber and Lyft. Moreover, Waymo will be keeping the name of the project a closely guarded secret until the formal announcement comes, according to the unidentified source.
Working On Self-Driving Technology For Nearly A Decade
In an official statement, the company said that “Waymo has been working on self-driving technology for nearly a decade, with safety at the core of everything we do.”
This is obviously a big milestone for self-driving cars but not a moment that will change or reshape the entire ecosystem. After all, Waymo does not plan a splashy media event and its service won’t be appearing in an app store anytime soon, according to the person that is familiar to the program.
However, the plans are to start small with hundreds of authorized riders in the Phoenix area, covering about 100 square miles as a start. The first wave of customers, on the other hand, will benefit from Waymo’s Early Rider Program which is a test group of 400 volunteer families who have been riding Waymos for more than a year.
What’s interesting is that the launch of such commercial ride-hailing service also marks an end to the secrecy that surrounds Waymo’s program – mainly going around self-driving research and Google’s initiative to make things official.
One intelligent mobility analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Nick Albanese, thinks that “this positions Waymo really far ahead of everyone else.” He also stated that “GM is the other leader, and they’re probably more than a year away from doing this. It’s very impressive.”
Driverless Is Coming, And It May Be Cheaper Than You Think
The start of Waymo’s commercial program will include many backup drivers in order to help ease customers in the service and take over if necessary, according to the person familiar with the plans.
Some of the volunteers won’t switch over to the new commercial program – and instead, will continue to test new features and offer feedback to the company. For example, they may receive cars with no backup driver with increasing frequency.
With this, it is clear that Waymo wants to take out the backup driver and push a driverless initiative, which according to some research, will force fares to drop.