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Waymo moves forward on a self-driving car service

Get ready, because they’re coming.

Waymo, the driverless-technology company spun out of Google, has agreed to purchase as many as 62,000 minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for use in a ride-hailing service set to begin commercial operations later this year.

The announcement on Thursday is the latest sign that Waymo is counting on a rapid liftoff for the service. In March, it agreed to purchase up to 20,000 compact cars for the service from Jaguar Land Rover beginning in 2019.

Both the Chrysler Pacifica minivans and the Jaguar cars will be equipped with the radars, cameras and sensors that Waymo has developed to enable the vehicles to drive themselves on public roads. Waymo plans to start its service in Phoenix, then expand to the San Francisco area and to other cities across the country.

Waymo began working with Fiat Chrysler in 2016 and has built a fleet of driverless minivans that it has been testing in Phoenix; Mountain View, Calif.; Austin, Tex.; and Kirkland, Wash.

According to the Associated Press, Waymo aims to have an automated vehicle rideshare service in Phoenix by the end of this year, so look out for that if your travel plans include Phoenix. We could begin to see them in Texas following that – one presumes initially in Austin, since that’s where the tests have taken place – as a bill to regulate automated vehicles passed the Lege last year. Waymo appears to have taken the lead in getting this technology to work, so we’ll see how this goes. Would you ride in a driverless car if one is available in the next few months? I gotta say, I’ll probably wait till version 2 is available, but maybe I’m just being a wuss. What about you?

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2 Comments

  1. Ross says:

    The only driverless vehicles I will ride are light rail trains. Too many potential issues with autonomous vehicles on streets, with no rails to limit their movement.

    I won’t be flying on an electric aircraft either, once those appear.

  2. voter_worker says:

    The NYT is unwilling to muster an iota of skepticism about this concept, or this particular application. My answer to your question is no. The upkeep issues you brought up yesterday have not been solved overnight by Waymo, have they? Plus I have no desire to be a guinea pig in their grand experiment. Phoenix, eh? It’s not too hard to imagine a vehicle’s a/c and door lock systems malfunctioning simultaneously and the hapless passenger baking to death in a few minutes. No thanks.