Waymo's first product will be its own on-demand ride hailing service

Darrell Etherington
Waymo's first product will be its own on-demand ride hailing service

Waymo is firming up some of its plans around its initial go-to-market strategy for its autonomous driving technology. The company has talked about a number of potential applications of self-driving that it might explore in terms of future products, including last mile transit in partnership with cities, consumer vehicle autonomy and even trucking, but at Web Summit today, Waymo CEO John Krafcik confirmed that Waymo's first focus in terms of commercialization will be deploying a "Waymo driverless service."

Such a service will probably resemble the current autonomous ride-hailing trial Waymo is running in Chandler, Arizona near Phoenix. For that pilot, select members of the public are able to hail a Waymo self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan, which then autonomously navigates to their position, picks them up, and brings them on to their destination, all managed from an app. Onboard, there's a start/stop button, climate controls, displays for monitoring the ride route and a one-click support button for speaking to a live agent.

Krafic said on stage that Waymo is "now working on making this commercial service available to the public," and that "getting access will be as easy as using an app." The service will send Waymo vehicles to riders on demand, without anyone at all on board, which will ensure that riders "have [their] own personal spaces where [they] can set back and relax, according to Krafcik.

The decision to go with this driverless hailing service as an initial go-to-market offering makes sense, since Waymo has already invested in a decent-sized fleet of Pacifica vehicles equipped with its latest self-driving hardware sensors and computing equipment. The vans themselves are well-suited to the purpose, too, with spacious, comfortable interiors and cabin comfort and media controls available to rear seat passengers via stock trim in the Pacifica Waymo is using.

Waymo is also in the process off increasing its fleet by 500 vehicles, adding to the 100 it currently has in testing.

At a recent press event at Waymo's Castle proving grounds for its autonomous tech, Krafcik said that the Alphabet company is open to a wide range of potential models and deployments for its products, but now we know the way many people will get to experience them first.