Waymo recently declared victory in its legal battle with Uber and the company now appears ready to deliver the knockout blow.
Bloomberg reports the Alphabet-owned company has become the first business in the United States to be granted permission to launch a commercial ride-hailing service without a human driver. The publication says Waymo received the green-light from the Arizona Department of Transportation last month and the decision allows paying customers to use Waymo’s fleet of fully-autonomous Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.
A Waymo spokesman confirmed the commercial service will be launched in the Phoenix area later this year. Little is known about the service but Waymo ordered an additional 500 minivans last year and announced plans to buy thousands more in January.
It remains to be seen how many vehicles will be deployed in Phoenix but speculation is already suggesting the cost of using the service could be competitive with rivals such as Lyft and Uber. That remains to be seen but Waymo won’t need to pay safety drivers so this should make the taxi fleet relatively affordable to operate.
Waymo began testing a handful of vehicles without a driver last year. The rides were free and open to members of its early rider program.
While studies have shown consumers are still wary of autonomous driving technology, Waymo insists the cars are safe. As the company has previously stated, the models have backup steering, braking, computer, and power systems that are designed to bring the vehicle to a safe stop if something goes wrong.