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Alphabet Could Launch a Self-Driving Cab Service by the End of 2017


Your future cab? If you live in Phoenix, possibly. 

Alphabet’s driverless car subsidiary Waymo is planning to launch a self-driving ride-sharing service with no human backup driver by the end of 2017, technology website The Information reports.

According to anonymous sources, Waymo is warming up to kick-start the programme in the Phoenix area over the next few months— and apparently the order to go ahead full-steam comes from Alphabet CEO Larry Page, who would have liked to launch the service already in late 2016.

The delay is partly due to a hold-up in a planned deal with Ford—which was supposed to provide the actual cars— which later was replaced by a new agreement with Fiat Chrysler.

Waymo’s service is expected to first launch in Chandler— a well-kept, sunny, pedestrian-scarce suburb of Phoenix — where the company has already been trialling its vehicles in the past.

The choice of location is also a consequence of Arizona’s permissive regulation, which allows organisations to test vehicle with no security human driver, as far as someone can take over the car remotely when needed. Waymo is fitting its cars with technology that will allow operators in its command centre to do just that.

There could nevertheless  be delays for a number of reasons, The Information underlines. For instance, Waymo’s vehicles still have troubles navigating left turns, or getting out of dead ends. And the new partnership with Fiat has been dogged by technical issues which have left Waymo with only half of the fleet it had initially commissioned.

But even if the service does not hit the 2017 deadline, it now seems a virtual certainty that Waymo’s self-driving cars will start catering to commercial users very soon.

Images via Google



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