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Waymo to Start First Driverless Car Service Next Month

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BM.GE
14.11.18 18:40
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In just a few weeks, humanity may take its first paid ride into the age of driverless cars.

Waymo, the secretive subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., is planning to launch the world’s first commercial driverless car service in early December, according to a person familiar with the plans. It will operate under a new brand and compete directly with Uber and Lyft.

Waymo is keeping the new name a closely guarded secret until the formal announcement, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the plans haven’t been made public.

“Waymo has been working on self-driving technology for nearly a decade, with safety at the core of everything we do,” the company said in an emailed statement. A Waymo spokesperson declined to comment on the name of the new service or timing of the launch.

It’s a big milestone for self-driving cars, but it won’t exactly be a “flip-the-switch” moment. Waymo isn’t planning a splashy media event, and the service won’t be appearing in an app store anytime soon, according to the person familiar with the program. Instead, things will start small—perhaps dozens or hundreds of authorized riders in the suburbs around Phoenix, covering about 100 square miles.

The first wave of customers will likely draw from Waymo’s Early Rider Program—a test group of 400 volunteer families who have been riding Waymos for more than a year. The customers who move to the new service will be released from their non-disclosure agreements, which means they’ll be free to talk about it, snap selfies, and take friends or even members of the media along for rides. New customers in the Phoenix area will be gradually phased in as Waymo adds more vehicles to its fleet to ensure a balance of supply and demand.

The launch of a commercial ride-hailing service will mark an end to the intense secrecy that’s surrounded Waymo’s program—and self-driving research in general—since Google first started working on it a decade ago. “This positions Waymo really far ahead of everyone else,” said Nick Albanese, an intelligent mobility analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “GM is the other leader, and they’re probably more than a year away from doing this. It’s very impressive.”


Source: Bloomberg

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