Waymo, the autonomous vehicle business under Google’s parent company Alphabet, sent an email to its ride-hailing app customers advising that their next trip might not have a human behind the wheel, the Verge reported on Thursday (Oct. 10).
An email to customers posted on Reddit and confirmed by the company as being authentic, said “Completely driverless Waymo cars are on the way,” for customers in the suburbs of Phoenix.
The email was sent to over 400 customers who signed up to test Waymo’s self-driving cars. An invite-only commercial ride-hailing service called Waymo One included roughly 1,000 people for the beta test.
The company is using self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans to drive Phoenix residents across a geofenced area that includes several suburbs such as Chandler and Tempe.
Waymo demoed its driverless cars in Arizona in 2017 but most rides included a trained driver behind the wheel.
Formerly known as the Google self-driving project, Waymo first began testing its technology in 2009 around its headquarters in Mountain View, California.
“We’ve been testing at a small scale in fully driverless mode since 2017 — with no trained human driver behind the wheel. And we’ve begun to responsibly ramp up our driverless offerings to riders in the Metro Phoenix area,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in Frankfurt, according to The Verge.
In the email posted on Reddit, Waymo said riders who get “matched” with a driverless car will receive a notification in their Waymo app that confirms the car will be without a trained driver.
However, Waymo riders can’t ask for a driverless vehicle; Matches will be randomly assigned.
Waymo announced on Tuesday (Oct. 8) that it will use its 3D mapping technology to figure out if its self-driving cars can navigate the heavy traffic congestion in Los Angeles. While there are no immediate plans to launch in the city, the company is sending a small fleet of its Chrysler minivans to L.A. to carry out the preliminary mapping process.