Report: Waymo to Launch Autonomous Taxi Service in December

Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo unit plans to debut a robo-taxi service next month in Phoenix, Ariz., sources tell Bloomberg News.

The business, which will operate under its own name, likely would be the world’s first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service. Waymo declined to comment.

The operation will expand on the pilot program Waymo has been operating in Phoenix since April 2017. That initiative involves 400 volunteer families who have been riding in self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans (pictured), most of which have backup safety drivers onboard.

Waymo plans to gradually expand the participant base as it launches the new program, Bloomberg says. Customers also will be released from non-disclosure agreements, allowing them to talk about their experiences, take photos and invite other people to join them on rides.

Initially, the new service will include hundreds of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans and serve an area of about 100 square miles, according to the report. Backup safety drivers still will be along for the ride, but the vehicles are expected to drive themselves for more than 99.9% of the time, based on Waymo testing data.

Usage fees, which haven’t been finalized, are expected to be comparable with those of ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber. Pricing likely will drop once the backup driver is deemed unnecessary.