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Waymo’s driverless ridesharing service goes public

Waymo will take Phoenix, Arizona, residents on test rides of its new self-driving cars in the next few months. The company plans to launch a driver-free ridesharing service that will pick up human passengers nationwide.

Waymo is test-driving fully autonomous, driverless cars on public roadways in Arizona with an eye toward launching a fully robotic ride-sharing service, Chief Executive John Krafcik said Tuesday. He said that the company will invite members of the public to go on rides in them in and around Phoenix in the next few months.

“Because we see so much potential in shared mobility, the first way people will get to experience Waymo’s fully self-driving technology will be as a driverless service,” Krafcik said.

While Waymo isn’t the only company currently testing self-driving cars, it is the first in the nation to put a self-driving car on a public roadway with no human behind the wheel. Google and other companies pursuing driverless cars have always put a human in the driver’s seat to intervene if the car makes a mistake. Waymo is the first to report giving its cars total control and the first to make plans to let regular passengers ride in them.

These test passengers will hail the cars via a smartphone app, like they would a typical human-driven Lyft or Uber. A Waymo employee will accompany them in the first few rides. If these rides are successful, passengers will start to ride in the vehicles all on their own. They will be able to stop the car at any time by pressing an emergency button, however.

Some states have enacted legislation restricting or banning driverless cars, but Arizona is not one of them. There is no federal law against driverless cars, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Waymo will roll out the driverless service to the general public at some point after these initial test runs, Krafcik said.

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