Google’s Self-Driving Car Spinoff Waymo Launches Taxi Service in Arizona

A Waymo car.
The service is currently available in Phoenix. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Waymo, Google’s self-driving car spinoff, launched a taxi service in four Phoenix suburbs on Wednesday. Called Waymo One, the service will initially be available to people who participated in the company’s “early rider” pilot program and will gradually roll out to the general public.

“There’s a long journey ahead, but we believe that Waymo One will make the roads safer and easier for everyone to navigate,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik wrote in a statement.

Customers are now able to hail Waymo’s self-driving cars 24/7 using an app in which they can enter their pickup locations and destinations. While en route, riders can track the progress of the trip and ask for help from a support agent using the consoles located throughout the car—a Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Each car can fit three adults and one child.

The service is currently only available in a 100-square-mile area encompassing four Phoenix suburbs, where Waymo has been running tests over the past two years. Waymo One has also elected to put safety drivers behind the wheel for the initial rollout in case the technology fails, though the company hopes to phase them out over time.

Waymo first invited about 400 members of the public to test its cars in April 2017 in its early rider program and has been working their feedback into the technology. Waymo One is now charging riders for the service, reportedly at prices that are competitive with the likes of Uber and Lyft.

Several smaller startups launched commercial self-driving services earlier in 2018, though Waymo’s technology is considered the most advanced in the field. Some of its most formidable rivals, such as GM and Ford, are still one to three years away from launching similar services.