Waymo’s self-driving taxi service months away from starting

In a matter of months, Waymo, Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car subsidiary, will invite the public to ride in its autonomous taxis. Unlike prior tests, these self-driving cars won’t have a human behind the wheel.

A new report from Reuters published on Tuesday states Waymo will seek public riders in a few months for rides in Phoenix, Arizona. At first, the rides will be free, but the company expects it will charge riders to begin a revenue stream, which may help offset the cost of self-driving technology. The first riders will use Waymo’s ride-hailing smartphone app, and eventually the company will open the service to a wider portion of the general public in Arizona.

Although a human won’t be in the driver’s seat, a Waymo employee will ride with users at the service’s inception. Eventually, Waymo will remove the employee as well and riders will use a button to stop the self-driving car should anything fail. 

Most recently, Waymo said it ditched development of partial self-driving systems in favor of fully self-driving systems. The decision came after Waymo found its test drivers sleeping behind the wheel, which left them unable to react if the technology needed to hand controls back over to the human driver. We doubt any of Waymo’s first riders will fall asleep. The idea of humans chauffeured by robotic cars, although somewhat surreal, is quite exciting.

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