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Waymo introduces rider-only service on downtown Phoenix streets

Phoenix Business Journal

Ride-hailers will soon be all alone when they hop into one of Waymo’s white electric Jaguars for a trip through downtown Phoenix.

Starting Aug. 30, passengers who have become Waymo One Trusted Testers — the autonomous vehicle company’s name for its early research users — will be able to use “rider-only mode” to get around. Up until now, the cars have operated with a company specialist in the driver seat.

The service is starting in a limited area of the downtown service territory, which is roughly bounded by Interstate 17 on the west and south, Camelback Road on the north and 44th Street on the east. The company said it will be expanding the rider-only option area over time.

One of the first to try out the service was Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who took a spin ahead of the official launch and tweeted about the experience, saying, “I can’t wait for you to experience it for yourselves!”

Waymo also produced a video of Gallego’s ride in a car equipped with the fifth-generation Waymo Driver platform, which can be seen below.

In the video, Gallego sits in the back seat with a Waymo representative and takes note of how the car monitors conditions on the streets, for example slowing down to read the scene at intersections busy with other motorists and pedestrians.

“It was fun to watch the wheel turn itself and navigate the city,” Gallego said in the video. “I’m excited to have an advanced technology that is clean and sustainable. I also hope it will make us a more inclusive city. There are many people in the community who can’t drive or choose not to; we want them to be able to go everywhere they want to.”

The ride-hailing service first introduced its autonomous cars to downtown Phoenix in May, and Waymo’s fully electric Jaguar I-PACE vehicles could be seen all over the area for weeks ahead of that launch.

Waymo, which is an Alphabet (Nasdaq: GOOGL) subsidiary alongside Google, has been operating in the Valley since 2017, mostly in a 50-square-mile area in the East Valley. At the time it expanded to Phoenix, the company had 300 vehicles operating in the Valley which had driven a combined 500,000 miles locally.

In the East Valley, rider-only service for the general public has been available since late 2020 in a 50-square mile area of Chandler, Mesa and Tempe.

People who want to become Trusted Testers — those who provide feedback to the company during and after their rides — can start by downloading the Waymo One app, creating an account and signing up for the program.


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