Waymo, a subsidiary of Google's parenting alphabet, which develops autonomous vehicles and related services, has officially expanded its reach and now makes some of its self-propelled minibuses to customers of the ride company Lyft.
Rides is limited to a small area just outside Phoenix, Arizona, where Waymo has tested self-propelled vehicles and has started its own autonomous riding company service called Waymo One.
Waymo's limited partnership with Lyft is the latest example of the company that branches to work with multiple companies as it develops autonomous vehicles and services. Earlier this month, Waymo made an agreement with Nissan and Renault to build self-propelled cars for automakers.
By cooperating with Lyft, Waymo, John Krafcik, believes that the relationship gives both companies the opportunity to gather valuable feedback. For Waymo, it would be better to measure how the public interacts with a self-propelled vehicle. Until now, those in Waymo cars in the Phoenix area have been predefined and accepted in Waymo's early rider program.
Waymo's smooth expansion comes as competitors make their own plans to roll autonomous equestrian services. Later this year, General Motors subsidiary Cruise is expected to uncover an autonomous turn-around service in a small area in or near San Francisco.
Uber, which dominates the equestrian industry in the United States, is also working on its own fleet of self-propelled cars. Earlier this month, Eric Meyhofer, head of Ubers Advanced Technologies Group, told CNBC that his company is working to distribute self-propelled cars without security drivers in restricted areas. But he said Uber wants to be in "good faith in public trust and regulatory confidence" before deciding to roll out Uber vehicles without anyone behind the wheel.
Michelle Krebs, analyst for Autotrader, believes widespread distribution of self-driving vehicles, either in a riding program or elsewhere, is still in place for years.
"No one knows the correct answers technically, and certainly no one knows the right answer to build a business model," she said. "So I think there's going to be a lot to participate in, exchange partners, and find out strategies before this turns out, and I think there's a way down the road."
For now, Waymo makes only a handful of its vehicles available in the Phoenix area, and ultimately up to 1
When Lyft customers in specific suburbs of Phoenix call the app on the phone and look for a ride, they will be offered the chance to be shuttled in a Waymo autonomous station minivan or a traditional lift vehicle with a human driver. The Waymo minivans in the Lift program will all have a safety driver behind the wheel.