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Waymo Launches Nation’s First Commercial Self-Driving Taxi Service in Arizona

The AP reports Waymo launched its commercial self-driving taxi service, known as Waymo One, in Arizona Wednesday. At first, the service “will only be available to a couple hundred riders, all of whom had already been participating in a free pilot program that began in April 2017.” The service will also be “confined to a roughly 100-square-mile area in and around Phoenix, including the neighboring cities of Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, and Gilbert.”

Venture Beat reports that the self-driving vehicles “will be available round the clock in the Metro Phoenix area, and it is worth noting here that although the cars are fully self-driving, a ‘driver’ will be present in the car at first.” However, Venture Beat states that “Waymo isn’t really pitching these as ‘safety’ drivers as it doesn’t anticipate their having to step in to take control – it’s more about peace of mind for people apprehensive about stepping inside a driverless vehicle.”

The Arizona Republic reports that “Waymo doesn’t disclose how many of its Chrysler Pacificas are on the road in Arizona but reports 600 in operation nationally.” The Republic notes that the “company also placed orders for 62,000 more Chryslers and 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace electric vehicles this year that it says will be used to expand the ride service in the coming years.”

Ars Technica reports that “passengers will hail vehicles with a Waymo One app, which will be available for both iOS and Android phones.” The apps are similar to the ones developed by Uper and Lyft in that it “prompts the user to enter a pickup location and a destination.” The app also “provides estimates of the cost and likely arrival time before the customer books the ride.”

According to Ars Technica, “fares are based on time and distance, and customers can expect fares to be roughly on par with what you’d pay for an Uber or Lyft trip –perhaps even a bit lower.” For example, Ars Technica’s Timothy B. Lee said that he punched booked a 4.6-mile trip into the Waymo app and was charged $7.32 for the trip. According to the article, Lee “punched the same route into Lyft and Uber apps on Tuesday afternoon and got quotes of $8.29 and $9.38, respectively.”

The Washington Post reports Costa Samaras, an automation and infrastructure expert at Carnegie Mellon University, said the move is a “big leap between testing this stuff and booking and transporting a passenger who’s paying money for a service.” Samaras said, “The trajectory of the industry, not just at Waymo, is going to depend on a lot of these early experiences. Do people feel safe? Do people feel comfortable? Is it seamless? … If it is, we’ll see more of it. If not, people will go back to the engineering room.”

Reporters share their experiences of witnessing, riding in one of Waymo’s vehicles. Reuters reports that they were invited by Waymo to “ride in a white Chrysler Pacifica hybrid modified with the company’s technology through the streets of Chandler, Ariz., a city about 22 miles (35 km) southeast of Phoenix.” According to the article, “drive took place on city streets with moderate traffic on wide, well-paved roads on a relatively clear day.” However, even in those favorable conditions, “Waymo’s technology performed much like a student driver: slow and timid.” According to Reuters, the “vehicle was hyper-aware of pedestrians and had trouble distinguishing their intentions.” The vehicle also “slowed well ahead of stop signs and drove at a snail’s pace over speed bumps.” Despite all of this, Reuters adds that the “safety driver never touched the wheel during the entire drive.”

The Arizona Republic states that their reporter and photographer “observed dozens of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans driving around the Waymo garage southeast of Interstate 10 and Pecos Road” over the course of three days and added that even though the “vans’ ability to detect potential collisions and cars encroaching on their lanes seems beneficial, their strict adherence to the law and extreme caution in maneuvers such as lane changes can frustrate other drivers.” The Republic states that Waymo called the police on them while they were following the vehicle around town and that’s when they learned from the Chandler Police Department that the “company’s vans and drivers have been threatened, had rocks thrown at them, a tire slashed, and other vehicles have intentionally swerved into their lanes.”

From the news release of the American Association for Justice.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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