the autonomous vehicle business under Alphabet, sent an email to customers of
its ride-hailing app that their next trip might not have a human safety driver
behind the wheel, according to a copy of the email that was posted on Reddit.
The email entitled ?Completely driverlessWaymo
on the way? was sent to customers that use its ride-hailing app in the suburbs
Both the early rider program and Waymo One service use self-drivingChrysler
[https://crunchbase.com/organization/chrysler-2]Pacifica minivans to shuttle
Phoenix [https://crunchbase.com/organization/phoenix-nuclear-labs]residents in a
geofenced area that covers several suburbs including Chandler and Tempe. All of
these ?self-driving rides? have a human safety driver behind the wheel.
A driverless ride is what it sounds like. No safety driver behind the wheel,
although a Waymo employee would likely be present in the vehicle initially.
TechCrunch was able to confirm from Waymo that the email went out to members of
Waymo?s early rider program.? The email is posted below.
Waymo, formerly known as theGoogle [https://crunchbase.com/organization/google]
self-driving project, first began testing its technology in 2009 in and around
its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. It?s been a slow and steady roll ever
since. The company has expanded its test area to other cities, spun out into its
own business and iterated the vehicle design and the sensors around it.
Waymo?opened a testing and operations center in Chandler, Arizona in 2016. Since
then, the company has ramped up its testing in Chandler and other Phoenix
suburbs, launched an early rider program and slowly crept toward commercial
deployment. The early rider program, which required vetted applicants to sign
non-disclosure agreements to participate, launched in April 2017.
In December, the company launchedWaymo One
[https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/05/waymo-launches-self-driving-car-service-waymo-one/] , a commercial self-driving car service and accompanying app. Waymo One signaled
that the company was starting to open up its service. Members of the early rider
program were transferred to the Waymo One, which allowed them to bring guests
and even talk publicly about their rides. More recently, Waymo opened another
technical service center in the Phoenix area in preparation todouble its
[https://techcrunch.com/2019/03/19/waymo-is-gearing-up-to-put-a-lot-more-self-driving-cars-on-the-road/] and grow its commercial fleet.
While driverless Waymo vehicles have been spotted periodically, they have never
been used to shuttle the general public. The introduction of driverless vehicles
would be milestone for the company.
And yet, there remains a number of questions. It?s unclear how many of these
driverless rides there will be or the what constraints Waymo will place on them.
It?s likely that these will operate in more simple, controlled environments for
months before it expands to more complex situations.