Waymo Pushes Ahead With Autonomous Ride-Hailing Service Plans Despite Uber Crash

Waymo is also adding the Jaguar I-Pace to its fleet.

byStephen Edelstein| PUBLISHED Mar 27, 2018 11:57 AM
Waymo Pushes Ahead With Autonomous Ride-Hailing Service Plans Despite Uber Crash

Just over a week after a fatal crash involving an Uber self-driving car in Arizona, Waymo announced that it will launch a commercial autonomous ride-hailing service in the state later this year.

The former Google self-driving car project already offers rides to a select group of "Early Riders" in Arizona, but Waymo now says it's ready to expand its efforts to the general public. Before the end of the year, Waymo autonomous cars will begin picking up passengers in Phoenix, and will take them anywhere within a designated service area, CEO John Krafcik said at a press conference.

The cars won't be able to roam everywhere, though. They will operate with a designated service area of about 100 square miles within the greater Phoenix area, Krafcik said, gradually expanding to 600 square miles. Other cities will be added at future dates.

Ride-hailing users will not only hitch rides in Waymo's Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, but also autonomous versions of the new Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV. Krafcik did not say how many I-Paces Waymo intends to deploy initially, but said the company's ultimate goal is to have 20,000, offering up to 1 million rides a day.

"Our model at Waymo isn't to be a car company," Krafcik said, explaining Waymo's decision to partner with a second automaker. He said Waymo will instead focus on four businesses: ride-hailing, trucking, "last-mile transportation" that will connect riders with public transit, and licensing to other companies. That may include allowing automakers to make its technology available to "personal use buyers," Krafcik said. While other companies are reassessing autonomous-car plans in the wake of the Uber crash, Waymo is getting more aggressive.