Waymo's autonomous van program in Phoenix has been operating quietly for around a year now, with 400 riders using the service every day and tens of thousands of applications for people to become a part of the program. How has the last year gone and what has Waymo learned during that time?
Well, as it happens, the last year has gone pretty well. Waymo's early rider program has participants that range in age from 9 to 69, and they go to all kinds of places in the greater Phoenix area, whether it's to school or the store or the movies or a bar. One of the things that Waymo has been improving through use of these testers' feedback is its ability to pick up and drop off riders in the most convenient possible place, rather than relying on just address data, ensuring minimal walks in Phoenix's notorious heat.
Waymo has been collecting feedback through the Waymo app as well as through a button in the autonomous vehicles that allows riders to contact Waymo's customer service department to ask questions. Among the more common questions asked are how passengers can select their own music and how to retrieve left-behind items.
The Waymo test fleet is already covering around 24,000 miles per day across America, so it will be interesting to see if/when the company will expand its autonomous early rider program to other cities.