Waymo made on Wednesday important progress in its pricey, years-long pursuit for autonomous taxis that actually produce profits.
The tech heavyweight has started charging people who ride in its self-driving cars in an around 160-km areas in four Phoenix commuter belts include Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa and Tempe. These places are among the safest operating zones for Waymo considering the large amount of testing experience that it has in the areas since 2016.
Generating income is a crucial milestone, positioning Waymo at the forefront of its rivals in the US, especially Uber and GM’s Cruise Automation, which haven’t started their own commercial autonomous vehicle services. These companies are competing to acquire customers and regain billions of dollars spent making the technology work.
To benefit from Waymo’s self-driving service called Waymo One, riders need to download a smartphone app and enter a valid credit card number, just like ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft. There will be a human driver at the wheel, only to monitor the vehicle and intervene in case things go wrong.
Main challenges hang about, one of which is technical obstacles. The current generation of the Waymo One taxi is pretty slow and jerky sometimes. It remains to be seen whether customers will stick to the service once it loses its novelty. Rules presiding over the business across the US are a disjointed mess, a major stumbling block to speedy expansion.
At first, Waymo’s nonstop service would be exclusive to hundreds of folks who had signed up in 2017, with cost is about equal to that of Uber and Lyft. Nonetheless, the company does hope to make its taxis available to the broader public in the future.
Waymo has been putting its self-driving cars through their pace for about ten years. Its autonomous vehicles have clocked more than 10 million miles on public roads in 25 cities across the US.
Alphabet doesn’t reveal its full amount of investment, but business experts lay that figure at above $1 billion.
Monetizing automated driving technology has been going at low pace. A few startups, like Optimus Ride in Boston, have gotten the green lights to launch autonomous vehicle services in slow-driving surroundings like business parks and retirement societies.
Operating commercial taxi service on the roads of metro Phoenix underlines Waymo’s major goals, says Ryan Chin, head of Optimus Ride.
According to him, such huge capital, time, and engineering investments will only be worthwhile in these bigger self-driving taxi markets. In the beginning, small markets can be good places to start, but the main target is always “the big fish.”
Waymo’s prominent progress sets anxiety on the entire autonomous taxi dreamers to move hurriedly to seize market share before others join the game, says Klaus Froehlich, Member of the Board of Management at BMW.
From here we know that a fast-working strategy has been decisive in ride-sharing, which explains why early players like Uber and China’s Didi Chuxing have strong presences in numerous areas where they operate.
Self-driving cars are the next stair in the competition to profile metropolitan transportation.
Reaching this milestone doesn’t make the Waymo complacent and relax. It will keep accelerating, because it knows that a few years of waiting is enough to get itself overtaken by rivals. So it has to progress early, although it’s quite a risky move for the company.
Waymo is currently focused on the Phoenix region. There the tech heavyweight looks forward to grow helpful insights into demand and supply, as it anticipates verdicts from regulator.
Federal guidance hasn’t turned up yet. A bill to accelerate the use of autonomous vehicles with no human drivers has been at a standstill in the US Senate for more than a year. In the meantime, laws on main subjects such as privacy, data, legal responsibility and cyber protection are still unresolved.