Valley Metro forms partnership with driverless car company Waymo

Jul 31, 2018, 3:14 PM | Updated: Aug 1, 2018, 5:25 pm
( Photo/Kathy Cline)...
( Photo/Kathy Cline)
( Photo/Kathy Cline)

PHOENIX — For the first time in the U.S., a public transportation agency and a private company are teaming up.

Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith says his agency and Waymo are working together to bring driverless transportation to more people — and more people to public transportation.

At Tuesday’s announcement, Smith said embracing change is much better than running away from or denying it.

“What are the opportunities that are opening up [in public transportation]?” he said. “What are opportunities that will be made available?”

During the first few months of the two-year partnership, Smith said, Valley transit employees will be able to ride Waymo driverless cars to their bus or light rail stations.

Smith said if that goes well, “Eventually, look to expanding that to things like our RideChoice … our taxi voucher system.”

Shaun Stewart of Waymo’s chief business development office said the company was proud to be taking part in this.

“We don’t see ourselves as disrupting public transportation,” he said, “but seeing if we can enable it — and improving the reach and the access to it — that the citizens here in Phoenix deserve.”

A driverless shuttle, Smith said, could work for many people who want to take light rail but aren’t comfortable doing it.

“They either, number one, don’t want to drive their car to a park-and-ride or, number two, their schedule doesn’t allow them to park their car to park-and-ride and go elsewhere,” he said.

As for safety, Smith, said, he’s completely confident in Waymo’s record.

“They have a spotless safety record,” he said. “We wouldn’t put our employees — or anyone else — in a vehicle that hadn’t been proven to be safe.” On the other hand, he said, any accidents would be promptly reported to the proper authorities.

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Valley Metro forms partnership with driverless car company Waymo