Autonomous driving company Waymo — which has been operating in the East Valley for several years — is gearing up to expand its driverless cars into downtown Phoenix.
The program is a taxi service that gives customers rides in driverless cars, including all-electric Jaguar I-PACE vehicles as well as Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans. The company’s Jaguar vehicles have already been seen in recent weeks taking measurements in downtown and midtown Phoenix.
During the initial rollout, the downtown rides will only be available to Waymo employees, but the company plans to open them to what Waymo called “Trusted Testers,” formerly known as early riders, in the near future.
Waymo, which is based in Mountain View, California, and owned by Alphabet Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOGL), has been carrying members of the public in its vehicles through a 50-square-mile area in Chandler, Tempe and Mesa since October 2020. Before that, the service was only available to a select group starting in 2019.
The Phoenix announcement coincides with the introduction of fully automated Waymo test rides in San Francisco as well. Waymo said that makes it the first company to simultaneously run fully autonomous ride-hailing operations in multiple cities.
Taking both steps is possible in large part because of the efforts and experience in the Phoenix metro, Waymo executives said.
“We’ve learned so much from our San Francisco Trusted Testers over the last six months, not to mention the innumerable lessons from our riders in the years since launching our fully autonomous service in the East Valley of Phoenix,” Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana said in a statement. “Both of which have directly impacted how we bring forward our service as we welcome our first employee riders in SF.”
The company said that its commitment to the Valley remains strong, as shown by the expansion to downtown Phoenix.
“Building a safe, robust, and generalizable autonomous driver—the Waymo Driver—whose capabilities and performance transfer well between geographies and product lines is our main focus,” Waymo co-CEO Dmitri Dolgov said in a statement. “Just as our previous experience allowed us to deploy our 5th-gen Driver in San Francisco quickly and with confidence, the combination of our experience in San Francisco and Phoenix’s East Valley, grounded in millions of miles of real-world driving and boosted by billions of miles driven in simulation, is already guiding our progress in downtown Phoenix and sets us up for future expansion of our fully autonomous ride-hailing service.”
Mawakana and Dolgov — who previously had been the company’s chief operating officer and chief technology officer, respectively — took over as co-CEOs in the spring of 2021 after the departure of former CEO John Krafcik after months of churn in the leadership ranks of the company that continued even after Krafcik’s exit.
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