Until now, Waymo’s autonomous, or self-driving, vehicle program has mainly drawn attention for conflicts between the Google spin-off self-driving vehicle company and one of its major competitors in the race to develop autonomous vehicle programs Uber around claims of stolen technology. However, the software giant’s experimental spin-off is now taking its efforts to develop consumer-ready autonomous vehicles public, opening registration for a pilot program in the Phoenix, Arizona region. The pilot program will invite a large group of area residents interested in trying out the new technology to use vehicles equipped with fully autonomous technology for their transportation needs.

Waymo reports it has given over 10,000 rides to internal testers within the organization, but this pilot marks the first time members of the public will have a chance to use the company’s vehicles, adding another city to those it already operates tests in, including areas near San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin. Waymo joins competitors such as Uber and Lyft in piloting self-driving services and follows the precautions taken by these competitors in including a human operator in each autonomous vehicle to monitor the artificial intelligence’s operations.

This phase of active piloting and advanced development is expected to continue for a considerable time as automakers such as Ford and GM as well as fleet operators such as Waymo, Lyft, and Uber work toward the next decade, with 2021 set as a preliminary date by some companies, including Ford, for the official launch of consumer autonomous vehicles.

Blog post from Waymo CEO John Krafcik announcing the pilot 

NY Times report of pilot program 

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