Geo Week News

December 10, 2018

Google sister company Waymo announces commercial driverless car service


One of the world’s most hyped uses for lidar tech, the autonomous car, is finally hitting prime time. This week Google’s sister company Waymo announced public availability of its driverless car service, Waymo One.

As usual with game-changing technology announcements, there are catches. It is only available in Phoenix, AZ, and even if you live there you’ll need to have participated in the trial program. As revered sci-fi writer William Gibson once quipped, the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

At first, explains Waymo, a trained driver will be “riding along to supervise [the]vehicles for riders’ comfort and convenience.”

For users lucky enough to try the service, it will operate much the same way as the ride-hailing apps you’re accustomed to, like Uber and Lyft: hail a car, get a price estimate, and a car shows up to give you a ride to your destination. Users can bring up to two other adults and one child to experience the future of transportation.

What’s it like?

At least one journalist, Mark Wilson from Fast Company, gave the service a try. Verdict? “Just two rides in, and we’re already bored of the future.”

More than once during my visit, Waymo employees suggest how “boring” the experience is for their riders after one or two times. They’re right; by my second trip across the suburbs of Phoenix, I feel like I’m running pesky Saturday morning errands, rather than being whisked through Phoenix by minivan Optimus Prime. It’s a remarkable feat of usability design: Waymo has made the technology so mundane, it no longer feels like a novelty.

Lidar, in other words, is doing its job. For more information, dig into Fast Company’s piece here.

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