Waymo Expands Driverless Taxi Service In Phoenix And San Francisco

  • Waymo doubles its driverless service area in Phoenix
  • The company says its vehicles can now transport customers over a 180-square-mile area
  • At some point in the near future, Waymo intends to start service in Los Angeles and beyond

Waymo is doubling its driverless service area in metro Phoenix while preparing to accelerate efforts in San Francisco and, eventually, Los Angeles.

Waymo is under pressure to turn its autonomous vehicle technology into a viable business, which means rapidly scaling paid robotaxi services in multiple cities. The self-driving technology company said this week that it has doubled the service area in which its Waymo One ride-hailing fleet operates in metro Phoenix.

The company says its vehicles will now transport customers over a 180 square mile area, connecting Phoenix and its major suburbs. Previously, Waymo operated in two unconnected regions, downtown Phoenix and the East Valley. Now it will connect its existing downtown and East Valley territories.

As a subsidiary of Alphabet, Waymo says its operating area will be the largest connected area in which a driverless ride-hailing service is offered. For the first time, the operating area is the largest driverless ride-hailing area on record and includes Arizona State University in Tempe, a potentially lucrative market. Waymo is also opening a second pick-up and drop-off location at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport.

A larger operating zone will include Scottsdale for the first time — and will cover nearly all of Tempe, with additional access to Chandler and Mesa. The company is also making it easier to take a robotaxi to or from the airport with a second Phoenix Sky Harbor pickup spot at the new 24th Street PHX Sky Train Station.

Since the company launched its driverless ride-hailing service to the public in 2020, Waymo’s Phoenix territory has nearly quadrupled.

In San Francisco, Waymo is offering free rides 24/7 to thousands of customers across a growing portion of the city but is awaiting a state permit to charge fares. Its main competitor, GM-owned Cruise, can charge fares, but only in a small area of the city. It recently announced 24/7 service across San Francisco, but only for employees, while it awaits a broader permit.

OUR THOUGHTS

If you think Waymo doubling its driverless service area in Phoenix is a big thing, you’re right. With its latest expansion, Waymo says it expects ridership to grow tenfold by next summer. It currently provides more than 10,000 trips per week to passengers that do not include employees. At some point in the future, Waymo intends to start service in Los Angeles. Waymo’s expansion, however, comes in the face of economic headwinds, as the company and other autonomous vehicle startups have laid off staff and need to convince investors they have a viable business model.

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