Waymo Robotaxis Transport Visitors at Phoenix Airport
Waymo’s robotaxis are now offering pick-up and drop-off service at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
In a blog post on its website, the company, owned by Google parent Alphabet, confirmed it is now running a ride-hailing service to the airport for members of its “trusted tester” program – individuals who have signed up to use its robotaxis and must be approved.
This latest expansion of Waymo’s operations in the Arizona city marks the first time in America that robotaxi rides have been offered to and from an airport.
In the long term, this is likely to present a lucrative opportunity, as airport trips have traditionally represented a significant portion of business for ride-hailing companies.
The new service, which will be fee paying from the outset, will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week and see Jaguar i-Pace models fitted with Waymo Driver autonomous tech perform trips from Downtown Phoenix to 44th Street Sky Train station – a journey of around five miles. Waymo Driver uses a combination of lidar, radar and cameras to deliver automated functionality.
Initially, at least, the vehicles will not be unmanned. According to Waymo: “We’ll start by offering trips with an autonomous specialist in the driver’s seat and will remove the specialist over weeks to come.”
The news is the latest stage in the company’s continued expansion in Phoenix. After an exhaustive testing process stretching back a few years, it first launched a commercial driverless service in the eastern suburbs of Mesa, Chandler, Tempe and Gilbert.
The pilot has been hugely useful, with Waymo claiming: “We’ve gained meaningful learnings at Phoenix Sky Harbor since we started driving there with our employees, and now we’re excited to expand to include our trusted tester community. Their input will help us create a world-class experience before we roll out more broadly.”
Airports are recognized to pose specific challenges to autonomous vehicles, thanks to their large numbers of pedestrians, wide mix of different vehicles and use of restricted areas for drop-offs and pick-ups, as well as often chaotic driving from people who simply don’t know where they are meant to be.
“All of this will help enhance our driving performance overall,” said Waymo.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who rode in a Waymo i-Pace herself earlier this year, welcomed the development.
“Phoenix leads the nation in demonstrating autonomous vehicle technology, science, and safety,” she said. The future of travel is here, and Waymo One service to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport marks our city’s commitment to innovation and technological advancements that will impact the world.”