The subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet – Waymo, that was created to develop technologies for self driving vehicles and similar services, has now decided to increase its reach and customers of ride-sharing company Lyft would now be able to access some of the self-driving minivans from the company.
However those Lyft customers in a small region just outside of Phoenix, Arizona, would be able to access the vehicles. This place was chosen because it is the place where Waymo had been conducting test drives for its self-driving vehicles and where the company has also started Waymo One – its own autonomous ride-share service.
This limited collaboration between Lyft and Waymo shows how the latter firm is expanding out to partner with a greater number of companies with respect to technologies for autonomous vehicles and services that it is continuously developing. An agreement for a partnership with Nissan and Renault was truck earlier this month by Waymo with the aim of development of self-driving vehicles for the French and Japanese markets.
The relationship gives both companies “the opportunity to collect valuable feedback” through the partnership with Lyft, believes Waymo CEO John Krafcik.
Gaining a deeper understanding of the manner in which public interacts with a self-driving vehicle would be the desirable outcome for Waymo. For the test drives that Waymo has been conducting so far in the Phoenix area, the company has been recruiting people for getting on to its rides through a process of pre-screening and after being accepted into the Waymo early rider program.
There are a number of similar companies like Waymo that are planning to launch their won autonomous ride-share services. An autonomous ride-share service in a small area in or near San Francisco is expected to be launched later this year by Cruise – a subsidiary of General Motors.
Work on its own self-driving vehicles is being conducted by the leader of the US ride sharing market Uber. But before deciding when to roll out Uber vehicles that do not have anyone driving thme but an onboard computer, Uber would want to in “the good graces of public trust and regulatory trust”, Eric Meyhofer, the head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, said in a television interview recently.
However, analysts and market experts are of the opinion that it is still years that there can be mass deployment of self-driving vehicles.
“Nobody knows the right answers technically, and certainly, nobody knows the right answer for building a business model,” Michelle Krebs, an analyst for Autotrader, said. “So I think there is going to be a lot of partnering up, changing partners, and figuring out strategies before this settles out, and I think that’s a way down the road.”
While initially just a few self driving vehicles would be made available through Lyft in the Phoenix area, Waymo eventually plans to introduce up to 10 autonomous minivans in the fleet of Lyft. The service will be limited to those Lyft customers planning to start and complete a ride within the geofenced area where Waymo vehicles have been operating.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)