Alphabet Inc Announces Plans for Self Driving Ride-Hailing Service
In a groundbreaking move, Alphabet Inc recently announced plans to launch a self-driving taxi service in Phoenix in the next few months. The vehicles the company plans to use for the service have already been tested for safety in trial runs around the city without a human driver.
Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, is the first to put fully autonomous cars on U.S. roads without a safety driver. On Tuesday, John Krafcik, the CEO of Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo Inc., said that since mid-October, the company’s autonomous minivans have been taking trips around Phoenix without a human present in the car to grab the wheel if things go awry. He also indicated that Waymo plans to launch the world’s first autonomous-vehicle ride-hailing service in just a few months.
Although many logistical details surrounding the ride-hailing service remain to be announced, this move represents an important advance in the use of self-driving technology.
Krafcik suggests that the human-less ride “marks the start of a new phase for Waymo,” which began its autonomous car project eight years ago. The company is also experimenting with self-driving trucks and will consider selling its technology to automakers seeking to implement it in their vehicles. As for the driverless ride-hailing service, Waymo has left a lot of questions unanswered, including what territory and during which hours the service will run and how much it will cost. Insurance is another major issue for driverless technology, with some suggesting that the operators should provide it themselves before the technology proves itself enough for traditional insurers to do so.
Waymo leadership expressed confidence regarding the safety of the vehicles, whose sensors are able to see objects with more accuracy than the human eye. Fully operational self-driving vehicles could play an important role in preserving autonomy for seniors as they lose the ability to drive safely by providing a secure and flexible means of transportation.
“This is the most advanced vehicle we’ve developed to date,” said Waymo’s CEO. “Everything in it is designed and built for full autonomy. Our combination of powerful sensors gives our vehicles a 360-degree view of the world. The lasers can see objects in three dimensions, up to 300 meters away. We also have short-range lasers that stay focused close-up to the side of the vehicle. Our radars can see underneath and around vehicles, tracking moving objects usually hidden from the human eye.”
Waymo plans to gradually expand its service beyond Arizona to other cities, states and countries around the world.