Waymo on Thursday announced it was opening up its driverless vehicle service in the East Valley to all passengers.
The company, which has been testing its autonomous vehicle technology in the region since 2017, had run pilot programs — known as Waymo One — featuring small numbers of passengers who had signed up for rides. Starting Thursday, the company opened that up to all potential passengers in the East Valley.
The move was announced in a blog post by Waymo CEO John Krafcik.
“We expect our new fully driverless service to be very popular, and we’re thankful to our riders for their patience as we ramp up availability to serve demand,” Mr. Krafcik wrote.
Waymo, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet Inc., has been working on autonomous vehicles since it was founded in 2009 as the Google self-driving car project.
The company uses a driverless system on Chrysler Pacifica minivans as its fleet of autonomous vehicles.
East Valley leaders were pleased to hear of the move to expand Waymo’s presence.
“We are excited to be the first city in the nation to host a public, fully driverless ride hailing service on our streets,” said Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke in a statement. “Waymo’s unwavering dedication to the safety and well-being of riders and employees, before and through this pandemic, gives me confidence as both Mayor and a Waymo One rider, that safety will remain a top priority as ride hailing services resume fully autonomous.”
Tom Egan, CEO of FSL, said in a statement the move to autonomous vehicles would be good for local residents, particularly seniors.
“We know seniors have been at a greater risk for COVID-19, and Waymo One will provide them a safe option for transportation,” he said. “Many seniors have been isolated and at home with no way to get to and from appointments, the grocery store, etc. We’re proud to partner with Waymo to give seniors a safe mode of transportation.”