Self-driving cars are increasingly becoming just another part of the future and the Google spin-off Waymo is helping that happen by offering its early rider program to the public in the Phoenix area.
Waymo is giving folks in the Phoenix area the first chance to ride in its early rider program. Those who are accepted will have regular access to the firm’s fleet of self-driving cars anytime of the day, to go anywhere in the testing area.
“This is the next step. We wanted to focus more on how people will want to use self-driving cars,” said Jennifer Haroon, director of operations for Waymo, about the early rider program.
In the trial, riders will be able to traverse through Chandler, Tempe, Mesa and Gilbert in one of Waymo’s two types of self-driving cars, a Chyrsler Pacifica Hybrid minivan or a Lexus RX4450h.
The Google spin-off, Waymo, has been testing its self-driving cars in the Chandler area and around Phoenix since April 2016. Other tech firms like Uber have also been testing self-driving cars in the Valley.
The program is accepting people with diverse backgrounds and different transportation needs, Waymo announced. Only one person in each household needs to apply and if they’re accepted then all eligible family members in the household will be able to utilize the service.
Waymo hopes to have hundreds of people participating in the early rider program, Haroon said.
Through the program, Waymo plans to gather feedback from the riders to help the Mountain View, California-based firm develop its cars safely and easily.
There will be a test driver at the wheel initially for this program.
Waymo will be adding another 500 self-driving Chyrsler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to its fleet of self-driving cars, which previously included 100 of the self-driving minivans. Production on the additional minivans will start in May, Haroon said.
The Waymo self-driving cars started out as a Google project in 2009, before being turned into its own company as Waymo late last year.
The self-driving cars are guided by three types of sensors, which can track things up to 656 feet. There are cameras to notice color, lasers to map a 3-D world for the car’s software and radar to figure out the speed of objects around the car.
Early this year, we took a ride in Waymo’s self-driving car around Chandler. We rode with two test drivers, who were sitting back as the car did the driving.
A few families in the Chandler area have already been taking part in Waymo’s trial program. One of the families took the cars to get to work, shuttle four kids to school and even take the parents out on their weekly date night.
Waymo’s cars have been logging in millions of hours of driving experience as the cars have been tested around the country. When one car in the fleet learns something during its testing, the rest of the fleet gathers that information and learns along with it.
“Chandler continues to embrace this technology from the many companies doing research and development here, and I look forward to very positive results from Waymo’s launch of this rider program,” said Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny.