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Waymo brings driverless rides to larger group of customers

Since December 2018, Waymo has provided fully driverless rides to a small group of hand-picked users in metro Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States.

Waymo, the self-driving vehicle technology unit of Google parent Alphabet, offered those rides to more riders.

All of the rides in Waymo’s test bed will be fully driverless — that is, with no human safety driver aboard — for at least several weeks, the company said Thursday.

Those rides will be open to anyone who is a member of the company’s Waymo One ride-hailing program, which has more than 1,500 members and is open to the general public.

Previously, fully driverless rides were available only to members of the company’s Early Rider Program, a smaller group of users who signed nondisclosure agreements and provided unvarnished feedback to help shape future operations.

“We were learning with them,” Waymo CEO John Krafcik said.

He said the service expansion was a milestone for the company, one that ranked among previous moments that have defined the early days of self-driving technology, such as the driverless ride Waymo gave to a blind man on public roads five years ago.

Though he did not pinpoint a particular metric that signaled Waymo’s technological readiness to deploy its fully driverless Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans to a wider audience, Krafcik said a combination of public-road testing, closed-course evaluation and billions of miles driven in simulation helped bring Waymo to this point.

“It’s a mosaic filled with literally thousands of threads that tie together and give us that confidence,” he said.

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