US: Waymo's driverless cars now on the roads

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Waymo - the self-driving car unit of Alphabet Inc., has started public trials of their autonomous cars in Phoenix, Arizona.

As part of the early rider program, residents of the Phoenix Metropolitan Region will be able to summon the cars through an app. For now, users won't be charged for using this service. Waymo plans to use this program to understand the way people outside their test facilities will use these vehicles. The company is studying user experiences and usage patterns to estimate the potential revenue for such a service in the future. It plans to run up to 500 such vehicles as part of this program.

The company is using the Chrysler Pacifica minivan for this program. So far, only testers and contractors have been able to experience such autonomous cars on the public roads. During the earlier test runs, a driver (operator) was always seated in the driver's seat. However, with the launch in Phoenix, there will be no one at the wheel.

According to the company, since 2009, when Waymo was part of Google, it has done over 3.5 million miles (56 lakh km) of testing on public roads in 20 cities combined, along with additional testing of over 20,000 individual scenarios at its testing ground.

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