Google seeking Phoenix families to test their Waymo self-driving cars

Waymo's Customized Chrysler Pacifica Self Driving Car

Recently, I was surfing through some local TV channels and stopped for a few minutes on “The King of Queens,” an old sit-com starring Kevin James as UPS driver Doug Heffeman. His future father-in-law is complaining that the job wasn’t a very good one. Doug replies that he would always have job security because nothing could replace a human driver.

My, how things have changed since the late 1990s and early 2000s. We are living in a time when self-driving cars and trucks are coming of age, a time that neither Doug Heffeman nor the writers of the show could conceive of.

Google was one of the first companies to construct an autonomous car. They have now taken their creation, under the company name of Waymo, and are actively seeking residents of Phoenix, Arizona to test their self-driving cars. This public “offering” is called their “early rider program”.

According to the Waymo website, “Waymo is a self-driving technology company with a mission to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around. From our beginnings as the Google self-driving car project, we’ve been working to make our roads safer and increase mobility for the millions of people who cannot drive. Our ultimate goal is to help millions of people get safely from door to door at the push of a button.”

For their “early rider” program, they have teamed up with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to add 100 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to their fleet. They hope to learn how people of all ages, shapes and group sizes experience their self-driving technology. These vehicles are equipped with updated sensors, new computers and other major system updates.

How the early program rider works

Google/Waymo wants to learn from people with diverse transportation needs. As an early rider, drivers will use their self-driving cars to go where they normally go every day – from work, to school, shopping, to the movies and more. Drivers will share their thoughts and experience with the Waymo team to help shape the future of how these vehicles will work

Live in Phoenix and want to apply to be an early rider?

Waymo is searching for early riders in parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area, including Chandler, Tempe, Mesa and Gilbert and are accepting a limited number of applicants at this time.

If you live in the Phoenix area and are interested, you can apply on their website.

Google (Waymo’s parent company) has had self-driving cars driving around Mountain View for years, with paid test drivers. The caution about putting real passengers in these cars caused a lot of people to question whether Google was going to give up a big lead to more aggressive companies like Tesla and Uber. Apparently, they haven’t.

Do let me know your thoughts on this. It appears that driverless cars are coming sooner than later. (I hope that if any of my readers are UPS drivers that your job is secure for a long time to come!)

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