Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo self-driving car subsidiary has received approval in Arizona to launch the first driverless commercial ride-hailing service in the US. The company plans to launch the service in the city of Phoenix this year, using the “thousands” of modified Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans it’s purchased from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
“As we continue to test-drive our fleet of vehicles in greater Phoenix, we’re taking all the steps necessary to launch our commercial service this year,” a spokesperson for Waymo said in a statement.
Customers will be able to arrange to get a ride through a smartphone app or website, with pricing yet to be announced. That the ride-hailing service won’t have to pay human drivers could help it to be priced competitively with the likes of ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft.
The Phoenix metropolitan area is the same site where Waymo launched its “Early Rider Program” in April of last year. The program provides free, autonomous rides within a 100-square-mile area through the Waymo app. It’s also where the company started testing fully-autonomous Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans without human backup drivers last November – a first in the industry.
For Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Waymo’s approval to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service in the state of Arizona means that the automaker gets a foothold in the self-driving vehicle space without having to put forth anything like the investments made by Ford Motor Company or General Motors. If the service takes off and expands to other states, it could also mean that a whole lot more Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid fleet orders are on the way.