Instead of replacing current transit options, Waymo wants to make them more appealing.
Transit may cover a lot of ground, but there's still the problem of first-mile and last-mile mobility, which helps get folks to and from stations that aren't within easy walking distance. Waymo thinks it can help solve that problem, at least in the Phoenix area for now.
Waymo announced today in a Medium post that it has entered a partnership with Valley Metro, which is the regional transportation authority for the Phoenix area. The two will work together to see how Waymo's autonomous ride-hailing options can help bridge the gap between current public transit routes and the people who need to use them.
The partnership will operate in phases. The first phase will start in August, when Waymo will start offering its ride-hailing services to Valley Metro employees who need to reach public transportation. The second phase will extend Waymo's services to Valley Metro RideChoice users. RideChoice provides deeply discounted taxi rates to seniors and people with disabilities, and it's at this point is when Waymo will begin to gather data to see how its service impacts people in the Phoenix area.
Eventually, Waymo wants its service to be opened up to the public at large, offering the kind of first- and last-mile solutions that could make public transportation even more accessible. This could reduce traffic by making public transit more appealing, but at the very least, it will help the underserved get where they're going more efficiently.
This focus on enhancing, not replacing, public transportation is one of Waymo's four main pillars. It's already made headway on the other three -- creating a ride-hailing service, creating self-driving trucks for the logistics industry and working with OEMs to create personally owned autonomous vehicles. We're still a few years away from any of these goals being fully realized, but the pace at which Waymo is flying is good news.