Skip to Content

Waymo Has Invited the Public to Hop Into Its Self-Driving Cars

Folks living in the Phoenix area can now sign up for free on-demand rides, part of a trial meant to see how regular people integrate the autonomous cars into their everyday lives.

Want to be one of the first people in America to ride in a self-driving car? Time to pack up and move to Phoenix.

Waymo—or, the company formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project—announced Tuesday that it plans to sign up hundreds of households living in and around the Phoenix, Arizona, area for a trial that will give them free, on-demand access to self-driving cars.

“Rather than offering people one or two rides, the goal of this program is to give participants access to our fleet every day, at any time, to go anywhere within an area that’s about twice the size of San Francisco,” John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, wrote in a post on Medium.

The fact that Krafcik outlined how much of the greater Phoenix area will be open to riders is significant, suggesting that Waymo has mapped it in great detail and is confident that its cars will perform well there. This is similar to the approach Uber took when it launched its self-driving taxi program in Pittsburgh last year.

Uber’s Pittsburgh experiment showcased a technology that was a long way from self-sufficient (see “What to Know Before You Get In a Self-driving Car”), and since then the ride-hailing giant’s autonomous vehicle operations have had a rough ride—including being accused by Waymo of stealing its lidar technology.

Waymo, meanwhile, appears to believe its fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans and Lexus RX450h SUVs is up to the challenge of ferrying families to and from work, soccer practice, and on errands. While the company makes clear that each car will come with a human test driver, Krafcik said the purpose of the trial is to learn more about how people use Waymo's vehicles—where they go with them, how they interact with them during rides, and so on.

This could be a sign that the technology is maturing to the point that Waymo is becoming more concerned with how to make an actual business out of its cars (which was, after all, the point of spinning the company out of Google in the first place). There is also plenty of pressure from a growing list of competitors to keep pushing forward.

Regardless of the motivation, the trial is likely to provide a trove of data on what regular people do with autonomous vehicles when given the opportunity. And if Waymo’s years of experience in testing self-driving cars is any indication, there are bound to be a lot of unexpected results.

(Read more: The Verge, Waymo blog, “What to Know Before You Get in a Self-driving Car,” “Are Autonomous Cars Ready to Go It Alone?”)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.