Waymo announced this week that it has created a partnership with Valley Metro, the public transportation authority that serves the Phoenix area. The new ride-sharing service is designed to explore how autonomous ride hailing services can connect people with available public transit options. In a blog post, Waymo explains why it is pursuing this latest aspect of its ride hailing program.
Public transportation is an integral part of our cities, providing vital social, economic, and environmental benefits. That’s why cities around the world invest significant resources to build and maintain public infrastructure — light rail, trains, and buses — that help people commute and move around. However, as cities grow and evolve, the “last mile” — how people connect to public transportation efficiently, affordably, and safely — is one of the main challenges communities struggle to solve.
Waymo is partnering with Valley Metro, the Phoenix area’s regional public transportation authority, to explore mobility solutions that use self-driving technology to better connect travelers with the city’s existing buses and light rail. Working together, we want to explore how self-driving vehicles could fill transportation and mobility gaps for riders across the Greater Phoenix area.
The new program will start by offering “last mile” transportation to Valley Metro employees. Later this year, the company will expand its autonomous ride-hailing service to seniors and people with disabilities who are enrolled in Valley Metro’s RideChoice service, according to Engadget. “This will form the basis of joint research to evaluate the adoption of Waymo technology, its impact and its long-term potential to enable greater access to public transit,” says Waymo. As the company gains experience with the new program, it intends to open it up to more Phoenix residents.
Phoenix is ground zero for Waymo’s autonomous ride hailing services. A few weeks ago, it forged a new alliance with Walmart that will bring customers to and from local Walmart stores to pick up groceries. It also will provide its self-driving vehicles to AutoNation customers whose cars are being serviced and to Avis customers to help them get to and from its rental car facilities. Waymo’s fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans have been operating in and around the Phoenix area without a human driver or onboard engineer since the first of the year.
Waymo has ordered 62,000 Pacifica Hybrids from Chrysler and 20,000 I-PACE electric SUVs from Jaguar. All those self-driving vehicles are expected to enter service within two years. Once that happens, Waymo will have a fleet of autonomous cars that is one quarter the size of the entire US tax and limousine fleet. Waymo has every intention of being the dominant player in the autonomous ride-hailing industry.