Automation: Arizona Approves Waymo for Commercial Self-Driving on Its Streets
The self-driving revolution took another step forward recently when the state of Arizona gave the Waymo company a permit to charge customers for its transportation service. The self-driving cars have been tested on Phoenix streets for several months with people riding for free, and the new authorization allows the company to charge customers which puts it into a new business category.
The permitting to operate as a Transportation Network Company sets the stage for a new business competition of the Waymo cars with ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft which still have human drivers.
Uber has been planning for a move into self-driving technology since at least 2015 but will likely be hurrying things along since Waymo is about to become a direct competitor.
Driving cars for Uber is a part-time gig for many, and numbers are sketchy as a result, but those jobs are about to disappear because of computer-driven cars moving into the automotive transportation field.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics informs us that 305,100 persons were employed as Taxi Drivers, Ride-Hailing Drivers, and Chauffeurs as of 2016. All of those jobs won’t disappear immediately, but the end is in sight. And America certainly won’t need to import additional diverse immigrant cabbies.
The Waymo self-driving car is a pleasantly utilitarian vehicle.
Keep in mind the Waymo is not the new kid on the block, but is the renamed Google car that has been tested on the roads since 2009 and was a project started by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
The first U.S. commercial ride-hailing service without human drivers has been approved.
Waymo, a unit of Alphabet Inc., got a permit in late January from the Arizona Department of Transportation to operate as a Transportation Network Company, according to Ryan Harding, a spokesman at the state agency.
The designation lets Waymo’s fleet of driverless Chrysler Pacifica minivans pickup and drop off paying riders in Arizona through a smartphone app or website, the spokesman said on Friday. Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. are good examples of transportation network companies in the state, Harding added.
Waymo is a pioneer in autonomous vehicles, however rivals including Uber and General Motors Co.’s Cruise division are racing to catch up. The technology is still being tested in many regions, but it could transform the way people move around, especially in cities, potentially making the nascent industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
“As we continue to test-drive our fleet of vehicles in greater Phoenix, we’re taking all the steps necessary to launch our commercial service this year,” a Waymo spokesman wrote in an email.
Waymo plans to start the service in Phoenix this year. It will be limited by the number of vehicles Waymo has at the moment — the company has said “thousands” — although a network of driverless cars will be able to reach more people than a similar number of personally-owned vehicles that often sit idle for most of the day. Waymo hasn’t said yet what it will charge riders, but without human drivers, the cost could be competitive with Uber and Lyft’s human-powered networks.
Last year, Waymo started a free “early rider program” in the Arizona capital, where hundreds of people use a Waymo app to hail and use cars within a 100-square-mile radius. In November, Waymo began testing vehicles in parts of the city without a driver at the wheel, a first for the industry.