Waymo Begins Testing Autonomous Ride-Hailing Service With No Safety Drivers Behind the Wheel

Last month, self-driving company Waymo began operating autonomous minivans on public roads in Arizona, in tests that were conducted without a safety driver "or any human at all" behind the steering wheel. Today, the Google-owned company announced it's now beginning the first steps toward launching a ride-hailing service backed by a fleet of completely self-driving vehicles (via The Verge).

To start, Waymo will begin testing the autonomous driving service with its employees in Chandler, Arizona, then expand to members of Waymo's Early Rider program before finally seeing a public launch in the town sometime in the next few months. Users will hail the vans through the Waymo app and when they arrive there won't be any safety drivers or other humans in the driver's seat, but a Waymo employee will still sit in the backseat.


The test vans will be able to travel anywhere within a geofenced 100-square-mile radius of Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix. While there are understandable caveats to Waymo's ride hailing service tests, it is notable as the company's first time achieving Level 4 autonomy, where a vehicle is expected to perform "safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip" without someone behind the wheel.
The next step for Waymo is a big one: a commercial ride-hail service, in which riders can hail one of the company’s autonomous minivans via an app like Uber or Lyft. “People will get to use our fleet of on-demand vehicles, to do anything from commute to work, get home from a night out, or run errands,” Krafcik said.
Waymo has been testing its self-driving vans in Arizona because the state's laws regulating autonomous tests "are practically non-existent." Arizona lacks regulation that requires companies to publicly disclose accidents involving its autonomous vehicles, and various other potential self-driving related incidents, like the number of times a human driver was forced to take the wheel.

According to Chandler's mayor Jay Tibshraeny, "Waymo's work here in Chandler is groundbreaking as they work toward their goal of fully autonomous vehicles. At the same time, this research and development taking place in our community will ultimately make our roads safer and provide new freedom for those unable to drive."

Waymo has multiple competitors in the self-driving market, previously engaging in a legal dispute with Uber earlier in 2017. In February, Waymo accused Uber of stealing Waymo's own self-driving LIDAR system, and then a few months later, Uber fired the engineer accused of stealing the self-driving secrets from Waymo.

For Apple, the Cupertino company has reportedly scaled back its vehicle-related ambitions, with the most recent reports detailing the development of an autonomous service that would shuttle employees around its campus.

Tag: Waymo


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12 months ago
Great. Go to a place with no regulations to test a technology that will eliminate many thousands of entry level driving jobs for people. These big tech companies exist only to enrich a tiny number of people and destroy the rest of us, all under the rubric of “progress.”
Rating: 5 Votes
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12 months ago

Great. Go to a place with no regulations to test a technology that will eliminate many thousands of entry level driving jobs for people. These big tech companies exist only to enrich a tiny number of people and destroy the rest of us, all under the rubric of “progress.”


I’m sure horse driven buggy drivers felt the same way about “horseless carriages “
Rating: 5 Votes
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12 months ago

Great. Go to a place with no regulations to test a technology that will eliminate many thousands of entry level driving jobs for people. These big tech companies exist only to enrich a tiny number of people and destroy the rest of us, all under the rubric of “progress.”

Self-driving cars will eventually save thousands of lives every day. I'd say it's a good trade-off.
Rating: 4 Votes
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12 months ago
While safety is obviously an issue, people don't think about how many people are killed in cars every year.

Automated cars don't have to be perfect, they just have to initially kill fewer people than driven cars do.

And I'm pretty sure that even at this point, if we were able to replace ALL cars with autonomous cars that would be easily achieved.
Rating: 3 Votes
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12 months ago

Great. Go to a place with no regulations to test a technology that will eliminate many thousands of entry level driving jobs for people. These big tech companies exist only to enrich a tiny number of people and destroy the rest of us, all under the rubric of “progress.”


What about the number of lives it can save? Or the number of accidents? Numbers of drink drivers? Personally, I don't see that selling point only enriching a 'tiny' number of people lol
Rating: 3 Votes
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12 months ago

Good lord people are making a big deal out of nothing.

THERE IS STILL AN EMPLOYEE IN THE CAR. THAT MEANS IT'S NOT LEVEL 4 AND/OR WAYMO HAS NO FAITH THAT IT WORKS. THAT MEANS IT CAN'T SCALE.

An employee will be sitting in the backseat watching for when the car encounters a situation it can't handle. When, not if, that occurs, the employee will have controls to take over the car.

Although the fact the employee is physically there really shows how little faith Waymo has in their system. Why not do this same publicity stunt where it's a bit less obvious and have an employee monitor the car remotely?

That's a pretty cavalier attitude to take with 2 ton semi-autonomous vehicles on the road with regular pedestrians. It would be exceptionally stupid during a testing phase for Waymo to have no possible physical control over the vehicle. They're testing, not deploying for service.
Rating: 2 Votes
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12 months ago
I wonder what the insurance aspect/liabilities are with this service ? Does Waymo have sufficient Ins coverage if accident happens and passenger is hurt or even killed etc ? Will passenger have to sign a Waiver maybe ? If the car speeds for whatever reason and a police car chases the car will the car stop safely or continue on without noticing or bothering about being hailed to stop by the police ?
Rating: 2 Votes
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12 months ago

I wonder what the insurance aspect/liabilities are with this service ? Does Waymo have sufficient Ins coverage if accident happens and passenger is hurt or even killed etc ?


I'm sure Google complies with all state insurance laws; why wouldn't they?. Plus, it's Google, who would have amply resources to pay a judgement in the event of a lawsuit that exceeded their policy coverage.
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If the car speeds for whatever reason and a police car chases the car will the car stop safely or continue on without noticing or bothering about being hailed to stop by the police ?


Haha, great question! I haven't heard that one before, but it is a realistic use case.
Rating: 2 Votes
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12 months ago

Waymo employee will still sit in the backseat.


NO THANKS.
Rating: 2 Votes
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12 months ago
I guess with no drive there will be Waymo room. I guess that was the point of the company name making my joke pointless?
Rating: 2 Votes
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