Waymo's self-driving taxi service reportedly starts early December
In a matter of weeks, Waymo, Alphabet Inc.'s self-driving car business, will launch the world's first commercial service involving fully self-driving cars.
Citing a person familiar with the plans, Bloomberg reported Tuesday that the service is scheduled to start in Phoenix, Arizona in early December and under a new brand.
The report backs up Waymo CEO John Krafcik's earlier promise that the service would be launched in 2018, covering about 100 square miles in the metro Phoenix area.
The service will be similar to current ride-hail services offered by Uber and Lyft, only the cars will drive themselves. A Waymo employee will ride in some of the cars at the inception, though the plan is to eventually have no employees in the cars.
Waymo's filed traffic reports show that its cars can currently handle driving duties 99.9 percent of the time. Each of the self-driving cars features a button that will make the car pull over.
Bloomberg also reported that the service will be limited to dozens or hundreds of riders initially, most likely individuals who have already sampled the service in Waymo's Early Rider program designed to gather feedback from the public.
The service will eventually be expanded to other U.S. cities. Waymo is currently testing self-driving cars in about 25 locations and last week received approval to test cars with no one onboard on some of California's roads. Waymo has ordered more than 60,000 Chrysler Pacifica minivans and 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace SUVs for its self-driving fleet, so it's clear the company has major ambitions.
Waymo is also looking at Europe. Krafcik in June said the company will eventually enter the European market, but instead of going it alone in the Old Continent will likely partner with a local firm, possibly the Volkswagen Group.
The next closest rival is General Motors which has said its GM Cruise self-driving car business will be ready to start a commercial service in 2019.
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