Former Google division Waymo is launching a program in Phoenix this month to deliver people to bus stops, train and light rail stations, it announced last week in partnership with Valley Metro, the regional public transportation authority.
Until now, Waymo has been focused on creating a ride-hailing service, building self-driving trucks and making deals to license its technology to automakers, but the fourth goal of the company — connect people to public transportation stations — was unrealized until now.
Initially the program will be offered to between 30 and 50 employees of Valley Metro, using the Waymo app to hail a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan to take them to the nearest public transportation point available, expanding upon the RideChoice program geared to seniors and the disabled. It is unclear whether riders at this point will need to pay for the service. With this new partnership, the two organizations are aiming to learn more about how self-driving cars can connect people to other transportation options and, if successful, open the service to the public in the future.
The concept of the pilot is based on the idea that if given a low-cost option to get to a transit stop that's too far away to walk to, they might be more inclined to utilize that than resorting to vehicle ownership. Ride-hailing using autonomous vehicles is expected to be cheaper than the traditional version because with the elimination of the driver, it will be cheaper for riders.
Phoenix is a big test ground for Waymo, which has been testing self-driving vehicles there for months and successfully launched an early-rider program. Earlier this year, the company began moving passengers around in vehicles without a trained driver behind the wheel, in case of emergency.
The company, in partnership with Walmart, Avis and AutoNation recently announced deals to put its fleet of vehicles into the hands of consumers, with Waymo driving customers to partnered businesses in the Phoenix area.