May 4, 2023 - Economy

Waymo expands driverless rides across Phoenix

Image of a pedestrian walking in front of a driverless Waymo vehicle.

Waymo's autonomously driven Jaguar I-PACE electric SUV. Photo courtesy of Waymo

Driverless taxi pioneer Waymo is doubling its service area in the Phoenix metro while preparing to ramp up operations in San Francisco and, eventually, Los Angeles.

Why it matters: Waymo is under pressure to turn its autonomous vehicle technology into a viable business, which means rapidly scaling paid robotaxi service in multiple cities.

Driving the news: Waymo's Phoenix expansion will connect its existing downtown and East Valley territories, the company said Thursday.

  • The larger operating zone will include Scottsdale for the first time — and will cover nearly all of Tempe, with additional access to Chandler and Mesa.
  • The company is also making it easier to take a robotaxi to or from the airport with a second Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport pickup spot at the new 24th Street PHX Sky Train Station.

The big picture: Waymo's Phoenix territory has nearly quadrupled since the company launched its driverless ride-hailing service to the public there in 2020.

  • It now covers 180 square miles — the largest fully autonomous service area in the world, per Waymo.

Meanwhile: In San Francisco, Waymo is offering free rides 24/7 to thousands of customers across a growing swath of the city, but is awaiting a state permit to charge fares there.

  • Its chief competitor, GM-owned Cruise, can charge fares, but only in a portion of the city. It recently announced 24/7 service across San Francisco, but only for employees while it awaits a broader permit.

What to watch: With its latest expansion, Waymo says it expects ridership to grow tenfold by next summer.

  • It currently provides more than 10,000 trips per week (not including employees).
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