Self-driving cars have existed for several years, but you can’t just hop in one and go for a spin. Until now, you had to know someone who could get you a ride in one of these vehicles, but Alphabet’s Waymo has started offering regular folks a lift in its driverless vehicles. The main catch being that you have to be in the Phoenix area.
Waymo, which was spun-off from Google X’s self-driving car project, has been working on a new generation of self-driving car technology based on Fiat-Chrysler Pacifica minivans. The new design looks a bit less “prototypical” than the older Google cars, but there’s still a large white hump on the top with a lidar array poking upward. These vehicles have been cruising around the streets of Phoenix for the better part of a year, and now locals can request rides in the Waymo cars.
This program actually started two months ago, but it was kept under wraps and limited to only a few people. Now, Waymo is opening it up to anyone in one of the supported areas. That includes the Phoenix and the surrounding cities of Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, and Gilbert. You have to apply for access to the program, but once you’re accepted all members of your immediate family can take advantage. Waymo also encourages those in the program to use the self-driving cars every day, as often as possible. There’s no cost for the program, but Waymo wants all the consumer feedback it can get.
Waymo has released a video to highlight the Early Rider program, but it doesn’t tell us much about how the cars work. It’s mostly a collection of soundbites from a family that has been using the program since it was quietly rolled out a few months ago. You may notice there’s no footage of the inside of the car as people are riding around. That’s probably because that wouldn’t look very impressive—while the car can drive itself, there will be a human driver present at all times. This is a safety measure only, but functionally it’s not really much different than ordering an Uber.
Waymo is in the process of adding 500 new self-driving vehicles to its current fleet of 100. That will allow a lot more people to experience Waymo’s self-driving technology. Hopefully it’ll come to more areas soon. If you’re interested in applying and live in the Phoenix area, you can do so on the Waymo website.
source : https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/248297-waymo-now-offering-free-rides-self-driving-cars-phoenix-residents