Since its inception in 1998, Google’s has gained dominance, if not supremacy in providing internet-related services and products. The name itself is a synonym for online searches, akin to the genericized use of Jell-O and Kleenex as the go-to term for similar products, regardless of their brand names.
The American multinational technology company is now hoping that dominance in another industry will equate Waymo with autonomous cars. Already a pioneer in autonomous cars with a research program dating back to 2009, Google is taking a significant step in commercializing the cutting-edge, industry changing technology.
The self-driving car is close to becoming an actual service. After three million test miles on public roads, Phoenix residents are signing up to use one of its 500 autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans outfitted with Waymo’s software and tailored hardware.
Initial users from diverse backgrounds and transportation needs will book Waymo’s minivans through an app free of charge for now. The “early rider program” will help provide the company continuing insight on passenger experience, business model development and revenue generation.
Uber Technologies Inc. is an obvious and particularly bitter rival who has expanded its own fleet of autonomous vehicles into Tempe, a city located in the eastern part of the Phoenix metro area. Currently, Waymo is suing Uber over the technology and insists that its business model will be more wide-ranging then their rival.
Quiet testing by Google has been going on for two months with a handful of Arizonans. Initial results showed one interesting behavioral trait. People in the car seem to have a better opportunity to bond and connect inside the autonomous vehicle without the distraction of driving.
Provided that they can stop tweeting, Facebooking and even Googling on their smartphones. Beyond the potential for dangerous distractions, driverless car technology is still in its infancy and may present safety risks that result in serious accidents.