Monday , September 28 2020

Waymo launches iOS app as it reflects on first year of its robot taxi service

Waymo’s robot taxi service in suburban Phoenix, Arizona, turns one year old on December 5th. To celebrate, the Alphabet company is taking a step toward wider expansion by making its ride-hailing app available in Apple’s App Store.

Waymo’s app has been available to download from the Google Play Store since April 2019, which makes sense for a company spun out of Google back in 2016. Bringing the app to iOS, though, signals that the company is interested in expanding its customer base — even while its service area stays hyper-localized in the towns east of Phoenix. As such, there are still a few hurdles to jump through before you can begin hailing a self-driving car from your smartphone.

First, Waymo will be redirecting most interested customers to its Early Rider program of beta testers who sign nondisclosure agreements with the company in order to get access to early versions of Waymo’s technology, like its fully driverless rides. Even then, you’re likely to get waitlisted for the service, so don’t expect to be cruising the streets in a driverless minivan through towns like Tempe and Chandler quite yet. And if you don’t live in the Phoenix area, don’t hold your breath: Waymo doesn’t have any announced plans to launch its robot taxi service in any other city in the near future.

Eventually, those early riders can be moved over to what was previously known as Waymo One but has now been rebranded as Waymo’s public service. (Both the early rider program and the public service now operate under the banner of Waymo One. The company is also working on trucking, delivery, and several other business ventures.)

The company says it has approximately 1,500 monthly active users (a phrase used frequently in the tech industry) in both its early rider program and its public service in Arizona. The number of weekly rides it performs has tripled since January 2019. Overall, Waymo says it has conducted more than 100,000 rides total since it first launched in the Phoenix area in 2017. Most of those trips are paid, so the company is bringing in some revenue for Alphabet. How much revenue exactly, Waymo won’t say.

Waymo also won’t say how many trips it has given in its fully driverless minivans, but I can confirm that it gave one to The Verge this week. More on that soon!

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