Waymo is very close to starting a commercial service for its self-driving taxis, which are currently testing in 25 cities across the United States.
The first service will be offered in Phoenix, Arizona, using a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans running Waymo's own self-driving technology.
What will the experience be like? Waymo has released a 360-degree video that gives a good impression of what it will be like riding in one of the company's cars. It's definitely a weird feeling at first.
Waymo's self-driving technology has been in development since 2009, initially under the auspices of the Google Self-Driving Car Project. The technology relies on a combination of lidar, radar and cameras, plus detailed maps and powerful software systems complete with artificial intelligence. The latter is vital in predicting movements of other road users.
Other cities where Waymo's testing its self-driving taxis include Atlanta, San Francisco, Metro Detroit, and Kirkland, Washington. Waymo's cars still require an engineer to ride along in the front passenger seat but eventually the company will remove the engineer as well. At this point passengers will rely on a button to stop the car should they need to. And digital screens mounted to the back of headrests will display the current route and other key information.
Other leaders in the self-driving space include General Motors, which in January unveiled a self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV devoid of a steering wheel and pedals. GM's plan is to start running the cars on public roads in 2019. Ford is also delivering pizzas across Miami using Fusion sedans equipped with the company's own self-driving technology, while Nissan has a handful of self-driving Leaf electric cars ferrying passengers on a set route between the company's headquarters in Tokyo and a nearby shopping center.