Car Industry

Waymo may start charging for its autonomous-car rides in Phoenix

The trial program was initially free, but now Waymo wants passengers to pay.

Waymo

Thus far, the roughly 400 people signed up as "early riders" in Waymo's self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids have been riding in the vans for free. That could soon change, according to a new report from The Financial Times, which says Waymo plans to start charging Phoenix-area customers for those trips.

waymo-public-trial

Passengers in Waymo's self-driving minivans may soon have to pay for their rides.

Waymo

According to the report, Ruth Porat, chief financial officer at Waymo parent company Alphabet, said on an investors' call this week that the company was exploring "commercialization" of the self-driving trial program, with "some customers" now paying for their rides. No details were available yet as to how much each ride would cost.

Porat previously alluded to the plan in Alphabet's second-quarter investors' call, saying in July, "The focus has been to launch the commercial rider program in Phoenix that we've talked about, looking to do that by year-end. We do view that as a first step in building a more fully rolled out rider program in the future." Roadshow had yet to receive further comment from Waymo at press time.

As it works to further test and develop its autonomous-car technology, Waymo has been running a trial program in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area in which members of the public can ride in self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids. Waymo says its vehicles have already covered 10 million miles. The company also is testing self-driving Jaguar I-Pace electric crossovers.

Of course, Waymo has considered other ways of "paying" for those self-driving car rides. Waymo CEO John Krafcik told Roadshow earlier this month that the Waymo trips would eventually cost as much as an equivalent Uber or Lyft ride -- but that Waymo could instead get your destination to pay for the ride as a form of advertising.

"Businesses are saying to some of the users 'Hey, we'll pay Waymo to bring you to the mall, or to this destination, or to the hotel.'" Krafcik told Roadshow. "I think this is a really interesting future business possibility for Waymo."