Waymo is planning to launch the world’s first commercial driverless car service in early December, according to a person familiar with the plans. It will launch under a new brand and compete directly with Uber and Lyft.
While it is a milestone for self-driving cars, it won’t exactly be a “flip-the-switch” moment. Waymo isn’t planning a splashy media event, and the service won’t be appearing in an app store anytime soon, according to the person familiar with the programme.
Things will start small with a few authorised riders in the suburbs around Phoenix.
The first wave of customers will draw from Waymo’s Early Rider Programme — a test group of 400 volunteer families who have been riding Waymos for more than a year.
The customers who move to the new service will be released from their non-disclosure agreements. New customers in the Phoenix area will be gradually phased in as Waymo adds more vehicles to its fleet to ensure a balance of supply and demand.
Waymo’s plan is to plant the seeds of these driverless car programmes in different metro areas across the US and to expand outward gradually.