According to a report by The Information, Waymo could launch a fully autonomous taxi service as soon as 2018. The report states that Waymo plans on deploying “a commercial ride-sharing service powered by self-driving vehicles with no human ‘safety’ drivers as soon as this fall.” A move to put driverless cars on the road would place Waymo years ahead of the competition.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik is under pressure from Alphabet CEO Larry Page to transform the Waymo technology into a viable commercial product. The original plan was to debut the service in late 2017. However, due to a delay with the cars, the launch date is now sometime in 2018. Even if the service launches towards the end of 2018, Waymo still has a massive lead over any other competitor.
However, there are some technical problems to resolve before the service launches in Phoenix. The primary issue is the software’s inability to negotiate free left turns. A left turn without a corresponding signal seems to confuse the software.
Waymo chose Chandler, Phoenix as the first location for its service due to favorable weather and a regulatory system that encourages driverless cars. An executive order in 2015 “allows universities to test vehicles with no driver on board so long as a licensed driver has responsibility for the cars and can take control remotely if the vehicle needs assistance.” Waymo will have a team of operatives to take over from the software remotely if there are any issues.