GOOGLE'S SELF-DRIVING CAR DIVISION Waymo is taking on rival Uber with a fully autonomous ride-hailing service.
Waymo announced on Wednesday that, following successful trials of its vehicles on public roads in Arizona, it'll soon let anyone hop in one of its modified Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which are kitted out with self-driving tech and don't require a human driver behind the wheel.
"Starting now, Waymo's fully self-driving vehicles - our safest, most advanced vehicles on the road today - are test-driving on public roads, without anyone in the driver's seat. To date, Waymo vehicles have been operating on public roads with a test driver at the wheel," the firm said in a Medium post.
"Now, in an area of the Phoenix metro region, a subset of our fleet will operate in fully autonomous mode, with Waymo as the sole driver. Over time, we'll cover a region that's larger than the size of Greater London, and we'll add more vehicles as we grow."
The Uber-like ride-hailing service will first be made available to those who were part of the firm's public trial in Phoenix, and Waymo said that while passengers will initially be accompanied in the back seat by a Waymo employee, they will eventually travel alone in the fully autonomous vehicle.
The vehicles are equipped with safety features like backup steering and braking to ensure the rides go smoothly, and as noted by Business Insider, passengers will be given screens in the back seat that provide them with information such as the speed limit in the area, or a quick message to explain that the car is "yielding to pedestrians."
Rides will be free to start with, but Waymo said it expects to start charging for journeys at some point.
The launch of Waymo's fully-autonomous ride-hailing service is likely to put fire into Uber, which has been testing a self-driving scheme in Pittsburgh since September last year, and subsequently launched a similar programme in Tempe.
The firm's attempt to launch its autonomous service in San Francisco was shut down, however, after it got embroiled in a public spat with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. µ
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