February 2, 2023

Money News PH

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Waymo’s driverless robotic taxis are now making airport trips in Phoenix

Waymo sends its fully driverless cars to handle some of the toughest types of passenger pickup you can muster: airport trips. The company announced that customers flying in and out of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport can now hail one of the company’s “driver-only” vehicles, a sign that Alphabet as a company is willing to take more risks, to strengthen the case for a fully autonomous taxi service.

Waymo is also expanding the size of its service area in Phoenix and San Francisco to send the message that its robotaxi business is still going strong despite all the recent sad headlines about the future of autonomous vehicles.

“No waiting list, no NDAs, no hour limit, 24/7 service,” Waymo product chief Saswat Panigrahi said in a briefing with reporters. (Panigrahi’s hints at hour restrictions are a subtle swipe at rival robotaxi service Cruise, which is limited to only operating its fully driverless cars in San Francisco at night.)

“No waiting list, no NDAs, no hour limit, 24/7 service”

Of course, Waymo is not without its own limitations. The company is still awaiting final approval from the California Public Utilities Commission before it can begin charging for rides in its driver-only vehicles in San Francisco. As such, Waymo only offers unpaid rides in its driverless vehicles to certain members of the public, as well as employees and their guests.

Aside from that, it shortens the time it takes for Waymo to go from testing to commercial operations, Panigrahi said. For example, in Chandler, Arizona, it took three years to go from limited testing to driver-only rides, while it took about a year in San Francisco and six months in downtown Phoenix. This bodes well for the company’s efforts to expand its business beyond the two cities in which it operates, Panigrahi argued.

“If you look at our specific milestones, things are accelerating,” he added.

Waymo’s downtown Phoenix service area “doubles” to 41.2 square miles, while the company’s fully autonomous vehicles cover 46.5 square miles in San Francisco. Customers of Waymo One’s Ridehail service can order one of the company’s vehicles to travel within a 36 square mile area of ​​the city. Waymo provided maps of its service areas in each city.

But the business of running a robotaxi service will remain difficult as long as there are restrictions on where the vehicles can go. Human-driven services like Uber and Lyft have no such limitations. And customers can be fickle and quickly switch to another service that promises shorter wait times and fewer travel restrictions.

Panigrahi said the company is poised to address these myriad challenges, especially as it enters increasingly competitive areas like Phoenix Airport. “There can be spikes,” he said. “We have some preparatory plans. There are definitely benefits that we can bring to fruition much more quickly when demand exceeds originally planned supply.”