Waymo & Phoenix Look to Improve Public Transportation

Waymo is partnering with the Phoenix area’s regional public transportation authority, Valley Metro, to use autonomous vehicles to connect city residents with public buses and trains.

In the first phase of the partnership, which launches this month, Waymo, the self-driving vehicle subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, will offer first- and last-mile transit connections for Valley Metro employees.

They will be able to use the Waymo app to hail rides to take them to and from the nearest public transportation option.

In the future, the partnership will expand to include similar services for Valley Metro RideChoice travelers, which are groups traditionally underserved by public transit.

This group of riders will provide Waymo with enough information to potentially open up the service to the public.

The project was first touted at the at the Google I/O event in May during a keynote address by Waymo CEO John Krafcik.

Overall, the company’s self-driving fleet is racking up real-world miles at a rate of 25,000 per day, Krafcik announced on Twitter in July.

Waymo won’t just take you to the bus though. The company also recently announced it would give driverless rides to Walmart and to a shopping mall in pilot projects it set up with partners.

In other partnerships, the AVs will help consumers pick up and return rental cars, get around when their own cars are in the shop and make it to meetings when they’re staying at a hotel in the area.

With at least 600 AVs on the road in 25 US cities and a fleet of driverless minivans already giving free rides to a select group of consumers in the Phoenix area, Waymo has a commanding position in the industry, at least for now.

The company is poised to dominate an AV industry that could be worth $2.8 trillion by 2030, with the biggest established automakers being its only potential rivals, investment bank UBS concluded in a May report.

Rival Uber has suffered through a series of publicity nightmares this year, including a fatal accident involving a pedestrian and a self-driving Volvo earlier this year, and the closing of its automated truck development project.

Waymo has not only avoided those issues, but has continued to test its vehicles, both on public roads and on closed testing courses.

The company has also been on a media charm offensive over the past few months, releasing an upbeat video on YouTube in March designed to assuage the doubts of Americans who view with skepticism the safety and security of AV technology.

In June, Waymo marked the one-year anniversary of its early rider program with a blog post illustrating the various reasons its more than 400 riders hop an autonomous lift.

As the company plans to expand its self-driving, ride-sharing services across the US, the company announced in January that it had ordered thousands of Pacifica minivans to expand its ever-growing autonomous vehicle fleet.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.


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