PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Valley residents may have noticed Waymo autonomous cars making the rounds in and around downtown Phoenix. Starting Aug. 30, residents will start seeing them without backup drivers behind the wheel.
The self-driving taxi service, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., recently published a video featuring none other than Phoenix’s own Mayor Kate Gallego. “I’m about to take my first rider-only trip with Waymo in Phoenix,” Gallego says in the video.
The upbeat promotional video with the mayor and a Waymo representative shows them in the backseat, observing the car’s automated system controls, the brake, and acceleration pedals while navigating the car around school buses, cars, and pedestrians.
“I’m excited to have an advanced technology that is clean and sustainable,” Gallego says. “I also hope it will make us a more inclusive city. There are many people in the community who can’t drive or choose not to. We want them to be able to go everywhere they want to.”
But the service is not available to everyone just yet. Since 2017, Waymo has been testing their self-driving all-electric Jaguar I-PACE cars. At first in certain areas of Tempe, then expanding to specific parts of the east valley. The only people able to hail the cars are Waymo One Trusted Testers and company employees.
Waymo continues to test their vehicles with and without safety drivers behind the wheel depending on the customer and destination. According to the company’s FAQ, testers can order fully self-driving taxis in the specific areas of Phoenix, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and Tempe. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to Waymo’s self-driving cars. Some residents in the Valley in the past few years have threatened to attack the vehicles. A 2018 Arizona Republic story reported that Chandler police logged at least two dozen incidents.
Mayor Gallego appears confident about the service when she boasted the service on social media. “I can’t wait for you to experience it for yourselves,” Gallego wrote. “Check out the Waymo One app to learn more.”