Waymo strikes self-driving deal with Walmart, Avis, AutoNation and more
Phoenix-area customers of numerous businesses will be able to hail self-driving Waymo test vehicles.
Chris PaukertFormer executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015.
Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
is hugely expensive, but Alphabet's
has long taken a decidedly egalitarian view of the technology's potential. Officials at the former Google autonomous division have said that Waymo is dedicated to pursuing the transformative mobility technology for the good of all.
The latest proof? Waymo has announced a pilot program with many of the country's biggest companies, with the goal of making its autonomous test vehicles available to a wide swath of customers.
Among those new brands are omniretailer
, car sales chain AutoNation, rental car agency Avis Budget Group, the Element Hotel and a real estate investment company, DDR.
Certain Element Hotel guests in Chandler will be able to make use of autonomous Waymo test vehicles during their stays for around-town trips. The deal will be geared towards delivering a "VIP experience for visitors to Phoenix."
At the DDR-owned Ahwatukee Foothills Towne Center shopping mall in Phoenix, customers will be able to take rides in Waymo cars for shopping or dining excursions.
The company says that these new test programs "represent eight of the top 10 activities our riders do when they get in a Waymo."
Despite Waymo's seemingly breakneck progress in developing self-driving vehicles, its CEO, John Krafcik, recently told a meeting of the National Governors Association that the time needed until the tech is available in wide circulation "will be longer than you think."