Waymo gained approval from the Arizona Department of Transportation on January 24 to operate as a transportation network company with its autonomous car fleet. The company has been testing its autonomous cars on Arizona roads for about a year. TNC status will give it more freedom to use its self-driving Chrysler Pacificas for commercial ride-hailing services.
A Look at Waymo’s Plans
Waymo’s ultimate goal is to provide 1 million rides each day, and it is working toward that goal with its plan to purchase thousands of SUVs from Jaguar. Waymo may purchase up to 20,000 of the manufacturer’s all-electric Jaguar I-PACE crossovers. The deal is worth more than $1 billion, and it was announced at the recent New York Auto Show.
Although Waymo is moving forward quickly with its latest self-driving car development, it will not deploy the first Jaguars for testing until the end of 2018. The vehicles are currently being built and outfitted with Waymo’s special autonomous technology. Waymo plans to test its new Jaguar self-driving car fleet for two years, and it expects to release them for ride-hailing services sometime during 2020. Within four seconds, the I-PACE crossover can accelerate from zero to 62 mph, and it can travel up to 310 miles on a single charge.
Waymo started a partnership with Lyft last year, which indicated its intention to offer ride-hailing services. Although the two companies have a partnership, Waymo plans to brand its own autonomous car fleet and ride-hailing platform. Waymo did not specify the projected cost of deploying its planned service. The Arizona program will start in Chandler and branch out to include other parts of the Phoenix metro area.
While Waymo’s latest plans may seem like a lot to accomplish, the company has additional plans for advancement. Waymo is working on a deal with Honda that may form a new partnership between the two companies. Honda and Waymo have been working on a deal since about 2016. Although many details of the potential deal were not released, Waymo’s CEO said that the alliance would yield self-driving vehicles for ride-hailing services and for delivering goods.
His indication of the two companies breaking into the logistics industry opens a new realm of possibilities for Waymo. Honda is also a key company in self-driving car technology. It recently unveiled some of its own autonomous prototypes and plans for testing them. While it is unclear if the potential partnership would result in Honda outfitting existing models with Waymo’s technology or Honda developing a new style of car, more details are expected to surface later in 2018.
What Does Waymo’s Recent Move Mean for Competitors?
Waymo’s approval to operate as a transportation network company means that Uber will have stiffer competition. Uber has been testing its autonomous car fleet in Arizona since it gained approval from the state. However, Uber recently suffered a major setback after one of its self-driving cars killed someone. After Governor Doug Ducey saw a police video of an Uber self-driving car hitting and killing a pedestrian in Tempe, he banned Uber’s fleet of vehicles from operating in Arizona. However, the ban only applies to Uber and does not take away Waymo’s test-driving privileges. Since Uber now knows that Waymo plans to operate as a ride-hailing service with autonomous cars, the competition will remain strong.
Other competitors are designing self-driving car fleets as well. GM outfitted its Bolts with autonomous technology and is testing hundreds of them throughout Arizona and in San Francisco. The auto giant is planning to develop its own commercial taxi service, which is set to debut in 2019. For now, Waymo’s biggest competitor is GM. Since self-driving car technology is new and data is still being gathered and analyzed, the metrics for measuring the leading company are imperfect. However, the cumulative data reports from self-driving car companies show that GM and Waymo are the leaders in autonomous car technology.
According to a spokesperson for Waymo, the company will continue to take steps toward the upcoming release of its commercial ride-sharing service this year. Its Arizona TNC permit takes it a big step further toward that goal. The TNC permit also gives Waymo the ability to charge for rides. However, the company has not yet specified how much it will charge for rides in the future. Also, it has not specified the launch date of its planned ride-hailing service.