The Waymo self-driving car is taking another step toward opening up their service to the general public by launching their Waymo One Service.
Waymo originally launched 10 years ago as part of the Google self-driving car project and has been testing their driverless cars for two years in the East Valley.
Team 12 talked with the head of Waymo's Product team about what this next step means for you and the ability to get into a driverless car with confidence.
After almost two years of testing out driverless cars in the East Valley, Waymo is launching their ride-hailing service that’s being dubbed Waymo One.
“It allows drivers to request a self-driving car 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s across a territory that hits Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe," said Daniel Chu, head of product at Waymo.
The Waymo One self-driving service and their app will eventually be available to the public, but for now, it's only open to the 400 people who’ve been part of their Early Rider Program that launched in April of 2017. The cars will be manned with a safety driver, but the vehicle will be operated in autonomous mode.
“They love being a part of improving road safety. They love that experience of having time to yourself and the consistency of the service," said Chu.
But the thought of self-driving cars navigating their way across the Valley makes some people nervous. Waymo vehicles have been a part of a number of crashes, including one along Chandler Blvd in May. But police say none of the accidents have been Waymo’s fault.
An Uber self-driving car in March of this year hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, even while it was being manned by a safety driver. It’s believed to be the first death associated with a self-driving car. Uber quickly suspended the program as a result.
Waymo says it believes their technology is more advanced that Uber's.
"So we’ve been really proud of the progress we’ve made in terms of constantly improving our software. So that’s definitely true. We’ve steadily improved and the folds into our incremental launch plan. We want to get that technology out and available to riders," said Chu
Waymo also says safety is a priority.
"That’s something that’s core to what Waymo focuses on. Safety is at the core of what we do. One way we think of it is by experience. We’ve driven over 10 million miles on public roads in autonomous mode. We’ve also simulated over 7 billion," said Chu.
Chu couldn’t tell 12 News exactly how many accidents Waymo has been involved in while driving in the East Valley but assured us that safety is the top priority of the company.
Regardless of the crash numbers, the company says they’re here to stay, and more driverless cars will be a part of your driving future.
“We’re focused on self-driving technology to really build a car that never gets distracted or tired, and can see hundreds of yards in each direction and always makes a safe choice,” said Chu.
As far as the cost of the service, that hasn’t been finalized at this point. But Chu tells 12 News it will be a great value.
If you’d like to be a part of the Waymo One experience you can sign up by clicking this link.