The world’s first commercial driverless cars are set to be launched before the close of 2018, according to a new report.
Waymo is set to launch a taxi brand in Phoenix in December, according to the Verge. Phoenix will see the beginning of a brand that hopes to compete with the current taxi and ride-hailing market—without a human driver.
The name of the transportation service from Waymo—a subdivision of Google’s parent company Alphabet—has not been released, according to Bloomberg, which spoke with an anonymous person familiar with the company’s plans. Rather than bursting into the limelight with a head-turning launch, the company is planning a slow release of its vehicles—less than a few hundred at a time—to emphasize safety.
The initial batch of customers is likely to be pulled from Waymo’s Early Rider Program, which consists of 400 families experienced in riding Waymos, according to Bloomberg. These families will serve as a test group, with Waymo gradually adding in a more diverse selection of customers as it irons out issues and responds to feedback.
The lack of drivers allows for a broad range of possibilities, both good and bad. There is always the concern that uncertain conditions could arise, leading the unmanned vehicle to respond unpredictably. In the near future, the company plans to combat this with backup drivers in some of the vehicles set to launch in December. These humans will be available should anything unexpected arise—for now. Waymo also has remote operators to serve as a failsafe.
Even with backup drivers in the vehicles, these modified cars will operate themselves “more than 99.9 percent of the time,” according to data unearthed by Bloomberg. As tests continue, customers are likely to see the frequency with which a vehicle comes pre-equipped with a backup driver decrease, until all of the cars are completely driverless.
Waymo plans to unveil its modified vehicles gradually, allowing the company to properly respond to customer complaints and hopefully avoid the bad publicity of an accident. Its fleet of 60,000-plus Pacifica minivans and electric cars is set to be released throughout the country at a steady rate over the next few years.
Google did not respond to a request for comment.
H/T the Verge