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Waymo One self-driving ride-hailing service plans public expansion next year

And it'll be easy for iPhone users to order a self-driving car with a new iOS app.

Waymo One
More self-driving car rides will happen next year.

Alphabet's Waymo self-driving car service is celebrating an important birthday today. Waymo One, its somewhat public autonomous ride-hailing service, turned 1 year old on Thursday.

Even more important is where Alphabet plans to take Waymo in 2020. Waymo said it will expand the ride-hailing service to more public users next year. It's unclear how many more riders the service will accept, and the company said there aren't any "concrete estimates" yet.

What should help is the addition of a Waymo app for the iOS App Store, which Waymo also announced Thursday.

"Ultimately, this app will allow more members of the public to more easily sign up to ride with us, enabling us to add members of the public into both our early rider program and public service more quickly and efficiently," a representative told Roadshow. Waymo launched an app for the Google Play store in April, and people can also sign up from Waymo's website.

Right now, Waymo One serves over 1,500 riders on a monthly basis. Any expansion will be noteworthy, but obviously thousands more customers would be a more substantial change than a few hundred. We don't yet know which to expect. Anyone interested in being part of the public Waymo One service or the early rider program will need to sign up and wait for an acceptance alert. After that, participants can hail a self-driving Waymo in the metro Phoenix area.

In addition to increasing ridership next year, Waymo said it plans to roll out new features and capabilities for Waymo One in 2020. What those are, the company isn't ready to share. However, the unit underscored that it's learned a lot during just the first year of public rides.

Interesting nuggets of info include when riders hail a self-driving car (mostly in the afternoon and evening), where they're going (lots of date nights involving self-driving cars) and what they like most (riders can now play music in a Waymo autonomous car during their ride).

One area for improvement the company noted will be arranging pick-up and drop-off locations. Since Waymo is now trialing rides with no human backup driver, the first company in the US to do so, Waymo wants to make this function as precise as can be. With no human to contact about pick-ups and drop-offs, it has to be spot on. The company did recently add a feature to honk the self-driving car's horn, however, to make it easier to find.

While announcements like this make it appear as if self-driving cars are ready to take over public roads, it's also important to remain grounded. Waymo operates this service in Arizona for a reason: It's dry and sunny. We've yet to see these machines tackle thick snow, ice or massive downpours at scale. And even when autonomous cars are ready, we'll surely see them as a commercial service first before buyers can park one in their garage.

Now playing: Watch this: A ride on public streets in Waymo One