Waymo is Ready to Launch Ride-hailing Service in Phoenix
Waymo, the self-driving technology development company that began as a project of Google, is expected to quietly roll out its autonomous ride-hailing service early next month (Dec. 2018) as programmed. The robotaxi service is expected to hit the streets of Phoenix, Arizona once its trial period of the autonomous ride-hailing business comes to a close, making it the first service of its kind to open itself up to paying clients. A fleet of driverless Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid vehicles has been taking non-paying experimental riders on board for test trips for a while now and the time has come for the real test to begin.
Come next month, when the service launches, it’ll officially have two separate revenue streams: people who request an autonomous car to drive them to a destination of their choice, and another from businesses who are interested in ferrying customers to their particular stores according to Waymo CEO John Krafcik. Expansion of the service to new markets is also on the horizon for the company – likely headed to Silicon Valley next. Waymo already runs a private self-driving car service that’s available to some Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company) employees locally. As if this isn’t enough cause for the company to celebrate, Waymo also became the first company to obtain a permit from the California DMV to begin testing their latest-generation of self-driving cars.
What’s an unexpected surprise of this endeavor? CEO Krafcik says the company is surprised by how high the demand for the service is among businesses. “This is a whole other channel of demand we really hadn’t thought deeply about that could end up being a really significant driver of business,” Krafcik said. Apparently, businesses see robotaxis as a low-cost way to lure customers away from online shopping and into their brick and mortar stores. Waymo partnered up with Walmart a few months ago to pilot yet another program, albeit on a smaller scale. Hypermarket giant Walmart will allow customers to place orders through walmart.com and use one of Waymo’s autonomous driving Pacifica vans to hitch a ride and pick up their order. Walmart will offer discounts in exchange for using this trial service. Additional partnerships of this nature are in the works between Waymo and businesses like AutoNation, Davis, DDR Corp, and the Element Hotel.
The pilot of Waymo’s robotaxi service began in Phoenix last year in April (2017) as 400 families signed up for its Early Rider Program. At the time, the company invested in about 500 Pacifica Hybrid vans to beef up its fleet, but come January of 2018, Waymo announced that they were buying thousands more Pacifica Hybrid units. The goal? Launch a wide-scale robotaxi service by the end of 2018.
Many other self-driving car companies have also launched their very own limited public tests of similar prototypes and robotaxi services, but none come close to the scale of Waymo’s pilot program. In fact, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess recently told a German newspaper that he estimates Waymo’s autonomous driving efforts are one to two years ahead of their own. It’s not hard to realize just how far Waymo has progressed when we take into account that it’s racked up more than 10 million real-world miles in its self-driving cars.
While these modified autonomous Pacifica Hybrid vans won’t be making the rounds at any Chrysler dealerships soon, it’s obvious that their roomy and comfortable interiors combined with their modern technology and fuel efficiency is what caught Waymo’s eye. The Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid are vans worth getting behind the wheel of and Hollywood Chrysler Jeep gives you just that opportunity. Check out our latest Pacifica inventory and schedule a test drive today!