Waymo’s Driverless Taxis Hit the Streets of Phoenix


Google’s sister company, Waymo, announced that its fully driverless vehicles are now open to the general public in Phoenix. How does Waymo plan to bolster its driverless ride-hailing services across the country?

The onset of the pandemic has stirred the global ride-hailing industry. A BCG saidOpens a new window revealed that ride-hailing transportation suffered a 60% decline during the lockdowns. According to Research and Market saidOpens a new window , the global passenger vehicle demand is forecasted to drop by 11% by the end of 2020. 

The sharp decline in commercial vehicles and social distancing practices has bolstered the growth of autonomous vehicles. Automakers and OEMs have expedited their self-driving projects to stay relevant in the market and improve their stumbling revenues. It is predicted that by 2025, the commercial vehicle industry might get disrupted by autonomous and connected vehicle technology. 

But the autonomous vehicle hype just got real. Last week, on October 8, 2020, Alphabet-owned Waymo launched Waymo One, its driverless robotaxi service for riders in Phoenix, Arizona. Riders within the 50-square-mile area of Phoenix will be able to hail Waymo One minivans. This marks a significant milestone in the company’s autonomous ride-hailing service. Waymo One is a direct competition to ride-hailing giants Lyft and Uber. 

Recent Developments in the Autonomous Vehicles Industry

Various automakers have shown interest in the lucrative autonomous vehicle (AV) industry. These include automakers like Ford Motor, General Motors (GM), Tesla, and Volkswagen, tech heavyweights, including Alphabet’s Waymo, Uber, Amazon, Argo AI, and hardware disruptors, such as Intel’s Mobileye, Nura, Luminar Technologies, and Drive.ai that build lidars, custom hardware, and mobility management solutions. 

Over the years, there have been promising investments and partnerships in the AV industry. 

  • In 2018, mobility tech company Aptiv partnered with LyftOpens a new window to launch a fleet of 30 AVs in Las Vegas. 
  • In 2018, GM announced to develop self-driving vehicles with an investment of $2.75 billionOpens a new window from Honda. 
  • In 2018, Ford committed to spending $4 billion through 2023Opens a new window to develop self-driving, including its $1 billion investment in Argo AI. 
  • In 2019, Ford-Volkswagen collaboratedOpens a new window with Argo AI to launch AV technology in the U.S. and Europe. 
  • In the same year, Ford also acquired Quantum Signal to bolster self-driving development. However, due to the pandemic, Ford has delayed its AV launch plans until 2022. 
  • In 2019, Hyundai and Aptiv entered a $4 billion joint ventureOpens a new window to start mass production of safe driverless cars in 2022, while German automakers BMW and Daimler announced a $1.13 billion joint venture for developing ride-sharing services.
  • In 2019, Amazon made a significant move into the AV market by investing in self-driving startup Aurora Innovations. 
  • In January 2020, GM and Honda unveiled Cruise Origin, its driverless car, and will be available for production by 2025. 
  • In February 2020, Aptiv-Lyft successfully completed 100,000 paid commercial robotaxi rides in Las Vegas. 
  • In June 2020, Amazon acquired AV developer Zoox for $1.2 billion to develop autonomous ride-hailing services.

Last week, Vodafone U.K. also dipped its toes in the promising mobility space with a new partnershipOpens a new window with Midlands Future Mobility. Vodafone will deploy 5G across 300 miles of West Midlands’ test route to strengthen autonomous vehicle connectivity and make U.K. roads much safer.

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How Does Waymo Plan To Rule the Self-Driving Market?

Since 2017, Waymo has been testing its AVs in the Phoenix area, and in late 2018, the company launched Waymo One, a public ride-hailing service for the limited public in Phoenix. But due to the pandemic, the company halted its benefits and plans. A 2020 report by Statista found that 57% of U.S. citizensOpens a new window are less likely to use public transport due to COVID-19 transmission. As the general public continues to rely less on the public transport, Waymo fast-tracked its long term initiatives and opened up fully driverless minivans to its Waymo One riders. 

To date, Waymo robotaxi service has been available only to select riders through the Waymo One program with a safety driver behind the wheel, but this is the first time that Phoenix riders will be able to enjoy a futuristic, fully driverless experience. Initially, the new driverless service will be available only to existing Waymo One customers, and in the coming weeks, more riders can sign up for Waymo One. Waymo is the first company to provide driverless ride-hailing service to the general public.

John Krafick, CEO of Waymo, shared the future prospects of Waymo One. He saidOpens a new window , “In the near term, 100% of our rides will be fully driverless. 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.”

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Wrapping Up

Modern consumers are really enthusiastic about on-demand car services, which are available for a fraction of the cost. The automotive industry is expected to undergo a similar revolution that the e-commerce industry went, where consumers shifted from brick-and-mortar to online shopping. Since driverless vehicles are the next wave of technology, they even promise a future with lower carbon emission and fewer road fatalities. If Waymo One turns out to be successful in Phoenix, the company might gradually roll out driverless vehicles across the country and improve transportation access for everyone. 

Phoenix readers, are you planning to book a Waymo One? Let us know about your experience on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window . We’d love to hear from you!