The companies Lyft and Waymo said in a joint release that Lyft riders in the Phoenix area will soon be able to summon one of Waymo’s self-driving minivans for a ride. The partnership was first announced almost two years ago. This partnership comes as Waymo expands its Phoenix-area presence with a new 85,000 square foot technical service centre in the suburb of Mesa and makes its app publicly available through the Google Play store.
Initially only 10 vehicles will be available on Lyft’s app in the handful of towns around Phoenix. Lyft customers will have the option to select a ride in a Waymo self-driving car through the ride-hail company’s app. Much like with Waymo One there will be safety drivers behind the wheel.
Waymo is operating two services in the Phoenix area: Waymo One, which has carried over 1,000 riders to school, work, or shopping; and its early rider program, which requires riders to sign nondisclosure agreements before experiencing some of the company’s latest updates. As per TechCrunch reports Waymo’s endeavour is much like Lyft’s collaboration with self-driving car start-up Aptiv in Las Vegas. It’s been six months since Waymo launched Waymo One, and in that time, Waymo says it’s grown to serve over 1,000 riders. Waymo One is only available to former early riders, but is not subject to an NDA.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a Medium post, “This first step in our partnership will allow us to introduce the Waymo Driver to Lyft users, enabling them to take what for many will be their first ride in a self-driving vehicle. We’re committed to continuously improving our customer experience, and our partnership with Lyft will also give our teams the opportunity to collect valuable feedback.”
Waymo also said it’ll work with a range of automotive partners — including Canadian company Magna — to outfit cars with its driverless system, and it claims the retrofitted factory will be the first of its kind when it kicks off operations in mid-2019. Waymo currently operates a roughly 20-person, 53,000-square-foot office in Novi, Michigan that opened in 2016. It tests driverless Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans in Detroit that are produced in Windsor, Canada and shipped to Novi, where they’re outfitted with hardware and software by Waymo and Chrysler engineers.
Waymo also announced last year that it would add up to 62,000 minivans to its fleet, and it has signed a deal with Jaguar Land Rover to equip 20,000 of the automaker’s Jaguar i-Pace electric SUVs with its autonomous system by 2020.
The Waymo-Lyft announcement follows promises made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in recent weeks that his electric car company should have 1 million vehicles capable of functioning as robotaxis on the road next year, and that owners of the cars should be able to generate tens of thousands of dollars from them annually.
Waymo has competition in Daimler, which last summer obtained a permit from the Chinese government allowing it to test autonomous cars powered by Baidu’s Apollo platform on public roads in China. GM’s Cruise Automation has been testing a driverless taxi service for employees in San Francisco and plans to launch a public service this year. Other competitors include Tesla, Zoox, Aptiv, May Mobility, Pronto.ai, Aurora, and Nuro, to name a few.
Waymo seems confident its momentum will help it to secure a chunk of a market that’s anticipated to be worth $173 billion by 2023. As per marketing firm ABI, as many as 8 million driverless cars will be added to the road in 2025.
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