Waymo's Driverless Cars Now Circling Phoenix Without Humans

This month, Waymo announced a fleet of driverless cars in Arizona has been in operation since mid-October without a safety driver, for the first time.

All of its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans circling Phoenix will now run completely on their own, without human driver intervention.

In some instances (not all), a Waymo employee replaces an actual driver in the back seat to coordinate testing.

This is big news; the next step in the pilot program is to recruit participants to ride Waymo's vehicles, traveling across the entire region, not a predetermined route, with the goal of collecting more data to tweak its technology and related algorithms.

Called the Early Rider program, it will comprise of riders who have signed up on the company's website, where participant selection is based on trip types and motivation level in using Waymo's service as his/her primary transportation method. All participants will have access to its driverless taxi service where they can order a Pacifica through the app.

In the past year, Waymo has developed partnerships with blue chip brands to use, launch, and service fleets. More recently, it reached a multi-year deal with auto retailer AutoNation to repair and maintain its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica hybrids.

Earlier in the year, it agreed to collaborate with Lyft towards the deployment of thousands of its autonomous electric cars, starting in 2018.