Waymo is inviting hundreds of people to test the self-driving Fiat Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan. On Tuesday, the Alphabet project, which was spun off from Google, also announced that it will add 500 more self-driving minivans in the fleet, which would be six times the current number. However, there was no information on when these new vehicles will hit the road.
Waymo aims to make self-driving part of riders’ daily lives
Waymo stated that the trial is aimed at identifying the on-demand, driverless cars that will eventually become part of people’s everyday lives. Those interested in taking a ride can sign up on the company’s website. Waymo will select riders depending on the types of trips they are looking for and also how keen they are to use the self-driving service as their preferred mode of transportation.
In a blog post, CEO John Krafcik said that a few families have already been using Waymo’s self-driving cars over the past two months. The company is now ready to open Waymo for a public trial to hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and different transportation needs. Instead of offering a couple of rides to users, the program is aimed at giving participants access to the fleet everyday at any time and also allowing them to travel anywhere, the CEO said.
Although Waymo’s test driver will be behind the wheel, the company wants the vehicle to be driven with as little interference from humans as possible. As of now, only residents of Phoenix and surrounding areas such as Gilbert, Tempe and Chandler are eligible to take rides. The company stated that the service area is almost double the size of San Francisco, notes The Verge.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne stated, “The collaboration between FCA and Waymo has been advantageous for both companies as we continue to work together to fully understand the steps needed to bring self-driving vehicles to market.”
Apart from FCA, Waymo is also in talks to offer its self-driving vehicle technology to Honda.
An app to help users test the fleet
Waymo also released a video in which a Phoenix couple was shown with four kids who have been using the vehicles for the past month. As of now, for the Phoenix program, Waymo is offering a smartphone app that will enable users to access the test fleet and also offer guidelines for users, said company spokesman Johnny Luu.
According to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, the latest phase of Waymo’s testing will provide new transportation “options for Arizonans who participate, and help pave the way for the expansion of this technology.” Waymo has so far not revealed the cost of the test program, the cost of additional Pacifica minivans or how many vehicles will operate in a particular area.
Google started its research program over seven years ago, fueling the self-driving craze among auto and tech firms. As a result, Alphabet’s Waymo is now facing stiff competition to maintain its early lead. Opening the testing to the general public shows how much confidence the company has in the viability of its technology and system.