Updated: Jan 18
Waymo has not said where or when it will expand its robo-taxi business beyond Phoenix.
In a bid to transform years of research and significant cash investments into a cash-generating business, Waymo, the self-driving vehicle technology unit of Google parent Alphabet, Inc will relaunch and scale its self-driving taxi service in Phoenix, AZ.
The Company said it will start offering, to its Waymo One customers, rides in minivans with no human attendant on board. Although, "Some of the Waymo vans in Phoenix will still have attendants on board".
In the coming weeks and months, Waymo plans to expand access to anyone who downloads its smartphone app and wants a ride within a 50-square mile area of Phoenix.
During a conference call, Waymo chief John Krafcik said the company, for now, will offer only rides in driverless cars. Within a few weeks, Waymo will relaunch service for a larger, 100 square mile swath of the Phoenix area, using Pacifica minivans made by partner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
The Company so far has not made clear when Waymo will offer services beyond the Pheonix area. "You can imagine we’d love the opportunity to bring the Waymo One driver to our home state of California," Krafcik said.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic caused Waymo to suspend operations, Waymo was using vehicles with no human attendant on board to provide five to ten percent out of a total of 1,000 to 2,000 rides per week in its Phoenix service zone, Krafcik said.
This latest move puts Waymo ahead of its rivals by being the first to offer such customer-facing, revenue-generating service. Waymo earlier this year raised more than $3 billion, mostly from outside investors.
The pandemic has depressed demand for ride hailing services of all kinds. Waymo has stepped up attention to sanitation of its vehicles in response, Krafcik said. Waymo will monitor vans remotely, and employees will remind customers to keep masks on in the vehicles. Vehicles will be cleaned regularly under a maintenance and fleet management partnership with auto retailer AutoNation Inc <AN.N>, Krafcik said.