Last month, reports began circulating claiming Waymo — Google’s/Alphabet’s self-driving division — would be launching a ride-hailing service within the next several months. Now, after eight years of development, Waymo has officially announced their cars are now fully autonomous, and will soon be providing transportation as part of a new ride-hailing service set to launch very soon.
Waymo made the announcement today via Medium, stating that after such a lengthy development, their cars are now “equipped with the unique safety features necessary for full autonomy, including backup steering, braking, computer and power that are capable of bringing the vehicle to a safe stop, if needed.”
As reported by The Verge, Waymo’s fully autonomous cars have been in operation — without a human driver behind the wheel — on public Arizona streets since mid-October. Over the next few months, Waymo will invite members of the public to ride around in their vehicles, though there are a few things to take note of.
First, a Waymo employee will be present inside the vehicle at all times, but instead of being in the driver’s seat, they’ll occupy the seat directly behind it. Furthermore, the ride-hailing service is locked to a specific part of Arizona — within a 100-square-mile area of Chandler, a suburb in Phoenix. That said, Waymo aims to expand to other areas after it has collected more data and their vehicles have taken more trips.
“Over time, we’ll cover a region that’s larger than the size of Greater London, and we’ll add more vehicles as we grow,” said Waymo.
With today’s news, Waymo is the first company to have fully self-driving cars on the road. While it is currently exclusive to Arizona residents, it’s the clearest sign yet that autonomous cars are here to stay, and they’re already making changes to the way people travel.