You can now book a self-driving robo-taxi

Waymo (Google’s self-driving vehicle division) will now pick up and drop off passengers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport as part of its expanded robotaxi service in downtown Phoenix.

Waymo will now pick up and drop off passengers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport as part of its expanded robotaxi service in downtown Phoenix.

It is the first time a robotaxi company in the United States has offered paid journeys to and from an airport, which will be a crucial use case for companies using autonomous vehicles that want to grow. The majority of ride-hailing companies’ per-rider earnings come from airport transfers. For instance, according to Lyft’s second-quarter earnings report, the airport use case accounted for 10.2% of its overall ride-share.

Waymo will initially employ a human safety operator for its airport rides, which are currently only accessible to members of the “trusted tester” program. The business stated that it plans to start rider-only operations “over the next weeks.”

The five-mile, round-the-clock route connects downtown Phoenix with the 44th Street Sky Train station, which serves as an airport shuttle stop. With no surge pricing, prices will be comparable to those of Uber or Lyft. Although the business wouldn’t specify how many of its electric Jaguar I-Pace cars would be utilized for airport transportation, Waymo will keep track on passenger ETAs and adjust the fleet size as necessary.

Across California and Arizona, Waymo’s fleet of 700 AVs is spread out. The information was released shortly after Waymo revealed intentions to start a robotaxi service in Los Angeles with a human safety operator on board. After San Francisco, LA would be Waymo’s second Californian city.

After spending years operating in the nearby suburbs, Waymo extended its service area to include downtown Phoenix in March 2022. The business first made its downtown service, which was backed by human safety operators, available to staff members before inviting participants in its trusted tester program a few months later. At that time, Waymo started testing airport transportation with Phoenix’s downtown workers. The business began providing fully autonomous trips to reliable testers in downtown Phoenix in August.

Phoenix’s service area for Waymo. The service region that Waymo opened to “trusted testers” in May is indicated by the light green. The area that Waymo is expanding to as part of its launch, which includes Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, is denoted by the dark green. Images courtesy of Waymo

Waymo stated that it intended to use the new robotaxi service to strengthen its perception training and gain expertise with various road user behaviors at the airport.

Waymo Via, the business’s autonomous trucking rival, employs the same AV stack as its robotaxi, which, according to the company, makes it more scaleable because it addresses both highway and city driving.

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