Waymo has been implementing different versions or stages of self-driving technology for years, originally more directly under the Google umbrella. Now, starting today, Waymo is really opening up to the public.
In announcing the news, Waymo went back to some of its roots 5 years ago to give some context about how it got to where it is today (very briefly, not in any technical way). Regarding the last step before this one, the company wrote: “In 2017, we began our early rider program in the Metro Phoenix area with the next generation of our technology, using the full-size hybrid Chrysler Pacifica. This 4th-generation Waymo Driver was significantly more sophisticated than Firefly’s technology, and for the last year, has pioneered fully driverless, paid rides on high-speed roads across a service area larger than the city of San Francisco.”
“Over time, as we improved the capability of our Waymo Driver, we increased the scope and quantity of our operations, with 5-10% of our rides in 2020 being fully driverless for our exclusive group of early riders under NDA.”
In other words, Waymo was giving rides in fully autonomous cars to certain members.
Additionally, Waymo has indicated that all 100% of its fleet in the Phoenix area is now being operated as fully electric robotaxis.
That said, Waymo intends to add human supervisors back in at some point because that will somehow make it easier for Waymo to increase its breadth and coverage. (I’m confused by this, but the exact text is below.)
“In the near term, 100% of our rides will be fully driverless. We expect our new fully driverless service to be very popular, and we’re thankful to our riders for their patience as we ramp up availability to serve demand. Later this year, after we’ve finished adding in-vehicle barriers between the front row and the rear passenger cabin for in-vehicle hygiene and safety, we’ll also be re-introducing rides with a trained vehicle operator, which will add capacity and allow us to serve a larger geographical area.”
For more on robotaxi progress and plans across the globe, see:
- Mobileye’s Partnerships With BMW, Ford, NIO, Nissan, Volkswagen, & WILLER
- Waymo Has Partnerships With Fiat Chrysler, Jaguar, Nissan, Renault, Volvo, & Magna
- Nvidia’s Self-Driving Vehicle Approach — from Tesla to DHL to Mercedes