Having driven nearly three million miles in trials, Google spin-off Waymo is ready to begin real-world tests of its autonomous vehicle tech with members of the public; the company is now offering free rides to people in Phoenix, Arizona who want to participate in its Early Rider program.
If you’re in the city and travel around the Phoenix metropolitan area – including the towns of Chandler, Tempe, Mesa and Gilbert – you can sign up by filling out a form on Waymo’s site. Participants will be able to use the self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans not just once or twice, but “every day, at any time, to go anywhere within an area that’s about twice the size of San Francisco,” according to CEO John Krafcik.
In order to accommodate a large number of test riders, Waymo is adding 500 more vehicles to its fleet that already includes 100 Pacificas. It’s worth noting that the minivans aren’t entirely driverless at this point; a test driver will be seated behind the wheel throughout the duration of each trip, just in case.
Arizona makes sense for Waymo’s expanding trials, as the state is more welcoming of autonomous tech than others in the US. Uber began testing its self-driving cabs there in February, as it was invited to do so by Governor Doug Ducey. The company had to hit the brakes on its tests for a few days in March after one of its SUVs flipped over due to another vehicle’s failure to yield in time.
Interestingly, Uber and Waymo are currently at loggerheads over claims that the cab company stole vital self-driving tech for its autonomous vehicle program. Waymo first filed a lawsuit back in February; last week, it accused Uber of copying and hiding a LiDAR device used on its cars.
Find out more about Waymo’s Early Rider program and apply on this page.