Waymo getting ready to turn PRO: 4 highlights of Bloomberg’s exclusive look

Tom Randall got an exclusive look into Waymo’s driverless biggest test program in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Arizona. Highlights:

1. Trust grows with usage:

“People were like, ‘I don’t know how you get in that. I couldn’t trust a machine like that.’ It’s so opposite to how I’ve come to think about it,” Samantha says of friends’ reaction to her family’s trust in driverless cars. “I can’t think of a time that we’ve ever been honked at.”

2. Cost per trip– about $1.70/mile– is similar to Uber and Lyft. Without human drivers to pay, however, the price of a Waymo could go lower—much lower.

3. Waymo wants to focus on driverless technology:

CEO John Krafcik’s goal is to build an integrated suite of hardware and software that makes self-driving possible and then to put the technology to work across four areas of transportation: ride-hailing services, trucking, personal vehicles, and public transportation. The strategy leans heavily on partnerships, especially for vehicles. “Car companies make cars, and that’s what they should do,” Krafcik says. “Self-driving companies should make drivers.”

4. “The robotaxi drives like a very careful human.”

The Waymo app updates every month or so, Samantha says, and the performance of the autonomous cars is constantly improving. One of the tricks Waymo has had to learn is how to indicate “intent” to other drivers by how the car moves. While making a left turn in a large multi-lane intersection, the car signals and creeps forward before accelerating into the turn. Waymo drives conservatively, to be sure, but the robots aren’t cowards. Gone are the days where two self-driving cars facing each other in a parking lot might freeze up from an overabundance of politeness: You go first. No, please, you go first.

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