With 82,000 self driving vehicles on order — 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans and 20,000 Jaguar I-PACE electric SUVs — Waymo is preparing to enter the world of autonomous ride hailing and ridesharing big time, as Dick Cheney might say. In a blog post dated July 25 on Medium, Waymo announced its next step in its plan to offer autonomous vehicle services on a wide scale.
“Later this week, Walmart and Waymo will launch a test pilot that gives early riders savings on groceries each week when they are ordered on Walmart.com. While orders are being prepared at the store, Waymo vehicles will transport the rider to and from Walmart to collect their groceries.” Early riders are people who have signed up to use Waymo’s self-driving Pacificas in the Phoenix area. Those cars have no human driver and no engineer riding along to step in if something goes amiss.
Waymo is also partnering with real estate developer DDR. People who want to go shopping or dine at its upscale Ahwatukee Foothills Towne Center in Chandler, Arizona, can now get there and back aboard one of Waymo’s self-driving Pacificas. The Element Hotel in Chandler is also a new member of Waymo’s partnership arrangements. Frequent business travelers who stay at the Element Hotel can now commute back and forth courtesy of a Waymo self-driving car.
At AutoNation stores in the Phoenix area, customers can now use a Waymo vehicle instead of a loaner car while their regular car is being serviced. AutoNation already provides charging and maintenance services for the Waymo fleet of self-driving cars in the Phoenix area, as does the Avis Budget Group. Avis customers can now take advantage of a Waymo van as a “last-mile” transportation solution when picking up or dropping off a rental car in the Chandler area.
Waymo continues to take small but significant steps toward bringing autonomous mobility to cities across the US. By offering these free services in Phoenix, it is helping take away some of the fear and mistrust that people have about self-driving cars.
According to the company’s latest blog post, “While these are Metro Phoenix-specific partnerships today, these businesses are national and what we learn from these programs will give us a network of partners when we launch in new cities down the road. We’re proud to be a part of Metro Phoenix and are excited to grow and add partnerships that support the cities we operate in, bring unique value to our riders, and give more people access to a safe, self-driving future.”
Elon Musk says that one day self-driving cars will be as common as self-service elevators. That is probably true, but the odds are they will carry the Waymo logo on their flanks rather than the insignia of any other company, including Tesla. It is generally assumed within the autonomous driving community that the first company to bring true self-driving technology to market will enjoy a significant competitive advantage. Waymo has every intention of getting there firstest with the mostest.
Photo credits: Waymo