May 9, 2023
Waymo is set to double the service area of its self-driving taxis in Phoenix as part of an ambitious growth plan.
The company, owned by Google parent Alphabet, is currently providing 10,000 driverless trips a week via its operations in the Arizona city and San Francisco. But it says it wants to increase this tenfold by the summer of 2024.
To deliver this, Waymo is expanding in the Metro Phoenix area to cover 180 square miles of The Valley. According to the company, this will create the largest fully autonomous service area in the world – four times the size of what was originally covered when Waymo launched its self-driving ride-hailing program to the public in 2020.
The downtown and East Valley areas where Waymo has previously operated in isolation will now be connected, with Scottsdale included for the first time, nearly all of Tempe covered and additional access available in Chandler and Mesa.
Waymo also aims to increase its activity at the city’s Sky Harbor International Airport. The company has been offering driverless rides to and from 44th Street and Washington Sky Train Station, but is now adding a second location, the new 24th Street Sky Train station, where passengers will be able to be picked up and dropped off.
The airport is considered a “significant commercial opportunity,” given that it serves around 120,000 passengers a day.
Waymo’s focus on Phoenix is unsurprising as it is the only city where the company is currently allowed to charge for its self-driving taxis.
In San Francisco, it is still waiting for a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to enable it to commercialize its service. It has also attracted unwelcome attention from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which raised concerns to CPUC that self-driving taxis from both Waymo and rival Cruise were obstructing traffic across the city due to unscheduled stops.
Nevertheless, Waymo also plans to expand its service there, saying it will accept new riders and extend the area that members of its Trusted Tester program can access to include North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf.
“These latest expansions in Metro Phoenix and San Francisco will help us provide more trips to more riders in more places, and are a big step forward on the road to growing our business,” said Saswat Panigrahi, chief product officer.
The company’s Waymo Driver tech – which incorporates lidar, radar, cameras and computing power – is evolving in tandem with the expansion plans. New software updates are claimed to offer improved hand gesture detection, more versatile multi-point maneuvers and improved capability in bad weather, such as extreme fog.
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