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Waymo is Alphabet’s Robotaxi service; How to ride, cost, accidents

Waymo is a robotaxi service owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. It was initially created by Google and known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project, after seven years of research and development before finally being transferred to his own company.

Google began developing Waymo and its autonomous driving technology in 2009 at the Google X Lab, led by Google co-founder Sergey Brin. After almost two years of testing the technology, Google and the New York Times revealed its existence in 2010.

American lawmakers then expressed concerns about the lack of regulation for this new technological front. Google was a prominent supporter, pushing for regulation. In 2012, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles licensed a self-driving Prius running Google’s software. It was the first time an autonomous vehicle was registered in the United States.

In 2022, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai distanced Waymo and other Alphabet subsidiaries from Google by granting them more autonomy to design employment structures and compensation outside of the employment architecture from Google.

Waymo has been hit by Google layoffs in recent years: the company will cut about 8% of its workforce in 2023.

Despite the restructuring, Waymo’s offices are still located in Mountain View, California, a short drive from the Googleplex, Google’s world headquarters.

What does Waymo do?

The interior of a Waymo driverless taxi is shown navigating a Los Angeles street.

Waymo began operating publicly in Phoenix in 2020. Its services are waitlisted in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Waymo provides driverless taxi services in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix, using its fleet of autonomous vehicles.

In 2014, Google was granted a patent for a transportation service involving automated vehicles that would be funded by advertising fees. In May, Google unveiled a prototype autonomous vehicle that contained no gas pedal, brake pedal or steering wheel.

In 2015, they gave their first fully autonomous ride to a legally blind friend of lead engineer Nathaniel Fairfield; unlike previous tests, there was no police escort, no test driver and the course was not closed.

In 2016, this self-driving car project was spun off from Google and became a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. At that time, the company also ordered 100 Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans to test the technology. The following year, they were able to reduce their manufacturing costs by 90% and partnered with other automakers and the ride-hailing service Lyft.

Waymo began public operations in Phoenix in 2020.

Who can take a Waymo?

So far, Waymo only operates in Phoenix, San Francisco and Los Angeles, but is expected to launch in Austin by the end of 2024.

Prospective riders can sign up for the company’s Waymo One service by downloading the Waymo One app from Google Play or the iOS App Store. Waymo is currently widely available to the public in Phoenix, but services are waitlisted for San Francisco, Los Angeles and Austin. Like the main competitors, the price is indicated to potential passengers when booking.

Waymo ride prices are based on trip distance and duration, plus a minimum price charged for all rides. In April 2023, when a Business Insider reporter tested the technology in Phoenix, a 5-mile, 20-minute Waymo ride cost $11, the same price as an Uber ride to the same location.

Waymo has had several accidents

As with any new technology – or, indeed, any motor vehicle – incidents are to be expected. In February 2024, Waymo voluntarily recalled and updated its robotaxi software after two of its autonomous vehicles crashed into the same van being towed in Phoenix.

This is the latest in a series of incidents in recent weeks affecting several businesses. A few weeks earlier, a Waymo vehicle non-fatally struck a cyclist in San Francisco and rival Cruise suspended operations following an October accident that struck and dragged a pedestrian.


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