ARIZONA NEWS

Waymo to start testing rider-only vehicles on Phoenix-area freeways

Jan 9, 2024, 4:35 AM

A Waymo self-driving SUV stops at a crosswalk...

Waymo has been expanding its capabilities since launching the nation's first fully self-driving taxi service in suburban Phoenix in 2020. (Waymo Photo)

(Waymo Photo)

PHOENIX – Metro Phoenix motorists could soon see autonomous vehicles with nobody in the driver’s seat traveling on area freeways, Waymo announced Monday.

The company, which started out as Google’s self-driving car project, said it will begin rider-only freeway testing in the coming weeks, with the option only available to Waymo employees at first.

Until now, Waymo’s robotaxis have been limited to surface streets unless a backup driver was behind the wheel.

The ability to use freeways will significantly improve the efficiency of the Waymo One ride-hailing service, the company said. For example, a trip from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to north Scottsdale that takes 50 minutes on surface streets would only take 25 minutes using the Loop 101 Pima Freeway.

How long has Waymo One been operating in metro Phoenix?

Waymo’s high-tech SUVs have become a common sight on Valley roadways since the nation’s first fully driverless commercial taxi service was launched in the East Valley three-plus years ago.

Passengers can hail Waymo One robotaxis through a mobile app, similar to how Uber and Lyft work.

Waymo One has been expanding its capabilities incrementally since debuting in October 2022 with a service area that covered about 50 square miles in and around Chandler.

The range ballooned in May 2023 to include over 180 square miles covering most of Chandler and Tempe and parts of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Mesa.

The service area grew by another 45 square miles in July, adding destinations such as Camelback Mountain, McCormick Ranch and The Farm at South Mountain to the Waymo One map.

When did Waymo debut Phoenix airport service?

Along the way, the self-driving SUVs started picking up and dropping off riders at the 44th Street PHX Sky Train station in December 2022, making Sky Harbor the first airport in the world with autonomous vehicle service.

Phoenix airport service was later expanded to the 24th Street PHX Sky Train station.

Sky Harbor access advanced again last month, when Waymo started curbside service at both terminals during off-peak hours.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Insomnia in the summer may be due to Arizona heat, doctor says...

Serena O'Sullivan

Struggling with insomnia? Arizona summer heat may be to blame, sleep expert says

Arizonans who are dealing with insomnia in the summer months can blame the heat, according to a sleep expert with Banner Health.

3 hours ago

The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office website is now offering a virtual tour of the Maricopa Coun...

KTAR.com

Maricopa County Recorder’s Office website offers self-guided virtual tour of elections center

The Maricopa County Recorder's Office website is now offering a virtual tour of the downtown Phoenix elections center.

3 hours ago

Desert tortoises: Do not disturb, AZGFD warns the public...

KTAR.com

Wildlife officials warn against disturbing wild desert tortoises

The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) urges the public to keep desert tortoises wild.

4 hours ago

Banner Imaging and HeartFlow are collaborating to offer a new program to help new patients detect c...

KTAR.com

Banner selected to test Medicare dementia care model

The model will work to increase care coordination and improve access to services and supports, which includes respite care, people living with dementia and their caregivers.

4 hours ago

hit-and-run...

KTAR.com

Police investigating fatal overnight hit-and-run in central Phoenix

Phoenix PD responded to the area of 19th Avenue and Van Buren Street regarding a collision that involved a pedestrian.

11 hours ago

Pickleball paddle with ball laying on court...

Payne Moses

Chandler progressing toward construction of pickleball, tennis courts at Tumbleweed Park

Chandler City Council approved a construction services agreement to ignite a pickleball and tennis court project at Tumbleweed Park, the town entity recently announced.

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

Waymo to start testing rider-only vehicles on Phoenix-area freeways