For Waymo, the driverless age isn't imminent — it's here.
During a keynote speech this month at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said his company's pilot fleet in Arizona has removed drivers and will expand into a paid service available to the public in the coming months.
"Because we see so much potential in shared mobility, the first way people will get to experience Waymo's full self-driving technology will be as a driverless service," Krafcik said.
The announcement is part of an effort to prepare the public for commercial self-driving vehicles. The effort also includes an informational campaign with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, technology demonstrations for journalists at its California test grounds, a vehicle servicing partnership with AutoNation and plans to expand its fleet's operating area in Chandler, Ariz., to 600 square miles, roughly the size of greater London.
Commercializing its technology is a pivot point for a company that only a few years ago abandoned plans to build its own vehicles. The choice of implementing a ride-hailing fleet is significant, experts say, as it means Waymo can scale quickly, capitalize on vehicle use and continue research into how regular people interact with its technology.
Waymo is "beyond the need to prove this technology works," said Michael Harley, group managing editor for Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. "They're proving the business model. They've moved to the next level."