The world is changing, folks. That has always been the case, of course, but every so often comes along a game changing technology that underscores the changing landscape. Around 20 years ago it was the Internet, which had begun going mainstream. And today? Self-driving cars point to a different future than the one we live in today. Google is one of the driving forces, and through its Waymo program, it is offering up free rides in its autonomous vans in Phoenix, Arizona.
Phoenix residents are some of the first to participate in Waymo's early rider program. It is a trial of Waymo's self-driving vehicles and as an early rider, Phoenix residents can hitch rides in autonomous vans to go to work, to school, to the movies, and to several other destinations. The rides are free, and in exchange riders provide feedback on the experience that Waymo can use to improve things.
"Over the course of this trial, we’ll be accepting hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and transportation needs who want to ride in and give feedback about Waymo’s self-driving cars. Rather than offering people one or two rides, the goal of this program is to give participants access to our fleet every day, at any time, to go anywhere within an area that’s about twice the size of San Francisco," Waymo states in a blog post.
As part of its effort to improve its self-driving initiative and make it more accessible, Waymo said it is adding another 500 autonomous Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to its fleet. That is on top of the 100 Pacifica minivans that are already being used, representing a six-fold increase in its fleet of vans.
"Our early riders will play an important role in shaping the way we bring self-driving technology into the world — through personal cars, public transportation, ride-hailing, logistics and more. Self-driving cars have the potential to reshape each and every one of these areas, transforming our lives and our cities by making them safer, more convenient and more accessible," Waymo added.
The program is open to residents in parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area, including Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, and Gilbert. In addition to minivans, riders who participate in the program will also have access to self-driving Lexus RX450h models. As for safety, Waymo points out that since Google started its self-driving project in 2009, it's logged nearly 3 million miles—the equivalent of 400 years of human driving experience—on top of testing its software through 1 billion miles of simulated driving in 2016 alone.
Go here if you want to apply.