Google's parent company, Alphabet, has a self-driving car unit Waymo and it has become the first company in the world to start driverless ride-sharing services in the US state of Arizona. This comes after the company started driverless rides with few customers who were described as early riders in 2019. These riders went without safety drivers.
"Beginning today, October 8, we're excited to open up our fully driverless offering to Waymo One riders. Members of the public service can now take friends and family along on their rides and share their experience with the world. We'll start with those who are already a part of Waymo One and, over the next several weeks, welcome more people directly into the service through our app (available on Google Play and the App Store)," said a blog post by John Krafcik, Waymo's chief executive officer.
This launch comes after receiving feedback from these early riders who were bound by NDAs. The company is now deploying a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans.
"It's a really, really big deal, we think, for us, and for the world," said Krafcik added on a call with reporters.
Waymo has been developing driverless cars for over a decade when it was a skunkworks unit within Google's moonshot division called "Google X". Ever since being spun off into its own company, the driverless car company delivered the first-ever passenger trip without a driver five years ago.
Waymo remains a pioneer in autonomous car technology with it taking more than four years to have a fleet of over 100 cars having the capability.
After being spun out of Google and being positioned as a company in the Alphabet umbrella, for the first time in 2020 raised $3 billion from private equity groups and venture investors.
By March 2020, Waymo reported more than 5 to 10 per cent of its trips of 1000 weekly trips were fully driverless. The company has plans to reintroduce safety drivers unit it completes building barriers between the front and back rows as passengers aren't allowed to be on the front.
The Waymo project was founded by beleaguered engineer Anthony Lewandowski who jumped ship from Waymo to found autonomous trucking startup, Otto. Otto's acquisition by Uber led to a major court case between Alphabet and Uber which even played a role in the exit of Uber founder Travis Kalanick from the company he founded. Lewandowski was proven to have committed corporate espionage and has now been sentenced to prison while Google and Uber have settled their differences.