As of right now GOOGLE / WAYMO has begun monetizing some of their self driving vehicles. Development of WAYMO self driving vehicles has been ongoing for over 10 years, and includes cars and trucks, as each is seen to have commercial potential. In four suburbs of Phoenix Arizona (about a 160 km zone) self driving WAYMO ONE taxis are now in operation. Generating revenue after all these years of development and testing is a significant milestone, and puts WAYMO ahead of rivals like GM’s Cruise Automation, and Uber Technologies. All players in this field will certainly want to attract and keep customers and begin to recoup the money invested in the technology so far.
So, how does a customer use the WAYMO ONE taxi service? First, you need to download the WAYMO ONE app and provide credit card details, and then you can use the app to notify the service of your needs, providing your location and a destination. Much like UBER and LYFT, the app will provide a price quote and a time for pick-up. The service is touted to be operating 24 hours a day, however, it is available now only to a few hundred residents who signed up last year, and the exact number of taxis in operation has not been revealed by WAYMO. For cost comparison, the WAYMO charge for a 15 minute ride (about 3 miles) is $7.60, whereas the comparable LYFT charge is $7.20.
At this time WAYMO ONE taxis include a human in the driver’s seat, to intervene only in emergencies, and there is the app or in-car console to link passengers to a WAYMO ONE agent for answering questions and documenting comments. Some report that the ride is a little slow and sometimes jerky. WAYMO works with passenger feedback to help refine all aspects of the WAYMO ONE taxi experience. Only a handful of other startups have monetized driverless technology, in small ways, such as Boston’s OPTIMUS RIDE that has contracts to provide driverless vehicle services in enclosed, low speed environments, like gated business parks and seniors facilities.
There are still significant challenges to making a buck in the autonomous vehicle space. All across the USA there are many laws and regulations that fail to provide a coherent framework for designing the vehicles or the software applications needed to put them to work on their own. Estimates are that over $1 billion has been spent on driverless technology, and over 10 million miles have been traveled. Still, everyone is proceeding with great caution, wanting to ensure that the early adopters have only safe and satisfying experiences, generating enthusiasm, curiosity, and confidence. Given all that, the sky seems to be the limit for this exciting, disruptive technology.
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