Waymo announces driverless Uber alternative

Waymo, Google parent company Alphabet’s autonomous car project, will launch a completely driverless rival to ride-hailing service Uber in the next few months, CEO John Krafcik has announced.

The scheme will launch in Phoenix, Arizona, US, a city known for its dry and predictable weather, reports Reuters, with members of the public requesting a ride through a smartphone app. Waymo engineers are still working on the system’s operation during heavy rain and snow.

Waymo’s cars will be fully driverless Chrysler Pacifica MPVs, which the company has been testing since the project’s announcement last year.

No driver will sit in the front seat, although initially, a Waymo employee will be in the car in case of emergency. This is only temporary, however. Once members of the public begin riding solo, the cars will be equipped with a killswitch as a precaution.

Arizona’s relaxed laws on driverless cars made the state a more suitable location for the scheme’s introduction, rather than Waymo’s comparatively legislation-heavy home state of California.

The service, which is free of charge for now, will be rolled out in more areas later, although a timeframe hasn’t been specified. The widespread media coverage coupled with fees for use (to be introduced later) will help to offset some of the development costs.

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