Last month, Waymo reportedly expanded its early rider program for testing fare rates for its self-driving car service, which began during the third quarter of this year in Phoenix. Alphabet's self-driving arm now seems to be ready to take its autonomous fleet to the commercial level as a new report claims the company will start its first driverless car service in December in that city.
Citing a source familiar with Waymo's plan, Bloomberg reports that the service will be initially available to a small set of riders in the Phoenix suburbs spanning a 100-square-mile area. Those authorized passengers are the same people who have previously joined the company's Early Rider Program. But this time around they would have the freedom to publicly discuss the service free from the bounds of a non-disclosure agreement.
On the other hand, some Early Rider members won't be moving to the commercial service and, instead, will continue testing the autonomous vehicle's features. There will be backup drivers as well, but the driverless vehicles are expected to operate on their own most of the time. However, those volunteers who will remain in the testing phase may receive an increasing number of cars that have no backup driver.
While the move is seen as an attempt to directly compete with industry giants Uber and Lyft, at least in terms of pricing, Waymo's commercial self-driving car service will reportedly have a new brand that's still kept under wraps. But unlike Uber and Lyft, the upcoming Waymo service won't be expected to be available from any app store by the time it kicks off.
The move will mark the first time that a commercial self-driving car service hits the road. But there's still a long way to go in terms of testing and complying with regulations as the vehicle needs to prove it is capable of navigating different traffic and road conditions.