Alphabet's Chief Financial Officer, Ruth Porat, has revealed that the early rider program for its self-driving car has gained more participants, though the exact growth figure remains unclear. The announcement could be a strong indication that Alphabet's Waymo could be launching an autonomous vehicle for commercial use in the near future.
Waymo claimed earlier this year that its self-driving vehicles were ready for deployment without requiring a human backup driver behind the wheel, with Phoenix being the first city expected to receive the fleet. During the third quarter of this year, the company began experimenting with placeholder fare rates for its autonomous taxi service in Phoenix as part of its early rider program, Porat recently confirmed during Alphabet's quarterly earnings call this week.
Porat's announcement corroborates a previous report from Bloomberg. The news outlet reported in August that Waymo started showing hypothetical prices for rides in the self-driving cars in Phoenix. A Waymo representative also told TechCrunch that the prices are meant only to gather feedback from riders, meaning that the rates don't necessarily reflect the final pricing models and may change in the future. With these latest developments, it's only a matter of time now before Waymo finally starts deploying a commercial robo-taxi service.