Monday, 27 august 2018 | Redacción CEU
When it seemed that the conflict between companies that offer ridesharing services, like Uber and Cabify, and taxi drivers could not go any further, a new actor appeared on the scene: a taxi without driver. Although Waymo's cars are not new, they had not posed any imminent threat to the sector until now, since they had only been working within a program of experimental trips. This situation is about to change, as the launch date of the first self-driving service of taxis seems to be close. Alphabet's subsidiary itself promises that before the end of the year, the company will start offering a "driverless" car service. What will this futuristic journey services be like? What will Waymo's proposal consist of? How will the appearance of the autonomous taxis affect the sector?
The subsidiary of Alphabet (Google) is reaching the last stage of a pioneering project, a phase that will be crucial to the successful implementation of a self-driving taxi service which will be accesible to the general public. These vehicles promise to be completely autonomous, although, at least initially, when its launch finaly takes place before the end of the year, they will still have driver supervisors on board. However, will Waymo be the first firm to achieve successfully the coveted level five of autonomous driving in which no type of human intervention is no longer necessary?
The first brave passangers of the Early Rider program
Waymo has been working for almost a decade on the improvement and perfection of a project of self-driving vehicles, and a year and a half testing their cars in real trips. During this time, the vehicles under these tests have circulated in 25 US cities. In some places like Phoenix, this program, which is known as Early Rider, has experienced a very high degree of participation, with about 400 people who have volunteered to go on these trips.
Thanks to them and to the rest of the collaborators in other cities, the company has been able to check the operation of their cars on predetermined routes: the path they follow to take their children to school, their itinerary to work, trips to supermarkets or their visits to the gym. All these journeys have been supervised. The travelers had a companion from the company that would check the proper activity of the vehicle at all times. If there is something crucial in the development of autonomous cars is the priority given to the prevention and the concern for safety.
Waymo is not the only company that has been working on the development of this type of vehicles. Nissan, General Motors, Tesla, BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Ford are some of the major carmakers that compete to be the first firms to develop fully autonomous vehicles that circulate efficiently and safely by road. Although many of these companies have meticulously tested their cars and proven that their work is moving in the right direction, it is fair to say that Waymo is the one that has more kilometers behind it. The subsidiary of Alphabet is distinguished from other brands in relation to the number of kilometers which their vehicles have travelled. However, and perhaps precisely because they have more experience on roads, their vehicles have also suffered accidents, luckely none of them has been fatal -although there are precedents like the accident of an Uber's vehicle in Arizona-.