Waymo opens driverless robotaxi service in Phoenix to locals who can’t share experiences online

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Waymo is rolling out its driverless robotaxi service in Phoenix for members of the Alphabet-owned company’s ‘trusted tester’ program – but users can’t share their experience on social media and must sign a nondisclosure agreement. 

The company calls these trips ‘rider only’ to signify that’s there’s no human behind the wheel and people who hail them will be ferried around in a Jaguar I-Pace EV in downtown Phoenix. 

Trusted testers are prohibited from sharing their experiences on social media or with journalists and they must sign a nondisclosure agreement. 

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Waymo is rolling out its driverless robotaxi service in Phoenix for members of the Alphabet-owned company’s ‘trusted tester’ program

User who participate in the trusted tester program can't share their experience on social media or with journalists and must sign a nondisclosure agreement

User who participate in the trusted tester program can’t share their experience on social media or with journalists and must sign a nondisclosure agreement

Back in May, Waymo co-CEO Dmitri Dolgov said at a TechCrunch event that the company had begun allowing its own employees to hail rides without drivers in downtown Phoenix. 

Waymo has allowed local residents to apply to be trusted testers since 2017, but the service still had human safety operators behind the wheel until October 2020 when the driverless effort was officially launched. 

The fully driverless service today covers the East Valley that includes parts of Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe. It has already given more than 100,000 rides. 

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego shared her experience with the service Monday: ‘I had the opportunity to take my first rider only trip with the #WaymoDriver @Waymo’s fully autonomous driving technology. Phoenicians, I can’t wait for you to experience it for yourselves! Check out the Waymo One app to learn more.’

Waymo's fully driverless service today covers the East Valley and includes parts of Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe. It has already given more than 100,000 rides

Waymo’s fully driverless service today covers the East Valley and includes parts of Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe. It has already given more than 100,000 rides

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego shared her experience with Waymo on Twitter

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego shared her experience with Waymo on Twitter

The company currently has over 700 vehicles in its fleet, which includes a mix of Jaguar I-Pace EVs and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans as well as the Class 8 trucks. 

Most of these vehicles are located in Arizona, California and Texas – and are used in testing and commercial operations. 

This new effort with trusted testers in downtown Phoenix is the next step before a wider public release, but it also comes in the wake of accidents in prior years involving driverless or semi-autonomous technology. 

A June report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that nearly 400 crashes in the US within a ten month period were caused by self-driving or driver assistance technology. 

According to the NHTSA, Alphabet’s self-driving car unit Waymo had 62 crashes reported over the last year, while General Motors’ Cruise, used in San Francisco as driverless taxi rides, had 23. 

Cars produced by Elon Musk’s Tesla were involved in the majority of those incidents, 273 out of 392, which took place between July 1, 2021 and May 15 this year. Although Tesla accounts for about 70 percent of the crashes, the carmaker has produced a much larger share of all the self-driving or assisted-driving vehicles that are currently on American roads. 

Of the remaining amount of crashes involving ADAS technology reported by a dozen automakers, 90 of them involved Hondas and 10 were Subrarus. Ford Motor, General Motors (GM), BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai and Porsche reported fewer than five incidents each.

The agency said out of 130 crashes reported involving automated driving systems, 108 involved no injuries and one was a serious injury crash.

In October 2018, one of Waymo’s self-driving minivans crashed into a median after its driver dozed off but touched the gas pedal, which turned the autonomous driving software off. No one was injured and no other cars were involved in the crash.

Waymo is following a similar script that it used in San Francisco, where it allowed its employees to use the service first before moving on to trusted testers in that city. The company took surveys of San Franciscans due to that city’s unique topography and traffic challenges to determine what their concerns might be.

Cars produced by Elon Musk's Tesla were involved in the majority of crashes involving self-driving or driver-assisted technology, 273 out of 392, which took place between July 1, 2021 and May 15 this year

Cars produced by Elon Musk’s Tesla were involved in the majority of crashes involving self-driving or driver-assisted technology, 273 out of 392, which took place between July 1, 2021 and May 15 this year

Back in May, Waymo co-CEO Dmitri Dolgov (right) said at a TechCrunch event that the company had begun allowing its own employees to hail rides without drivers in downtown Phoenix. At left: Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakanda

Back in May, Waymo co-CEO Dmitri Dolgov (right) said at a TechCrunch event that the company had begun allowing its own employees to hail rides without drivers in downtown Phoenix. At left: Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakanda

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