Alphabet’s Waymo Cleared to Operate Driverless Taxi


Mar. 2 2018, Updated 10:25 a.m. ET

Waymo granted permit for ride-hailing service

Waymo’s long-anticipated driverless taxi service is about to take off. In late January, Waymo, one of Google’s siblings under the Alphabet (GOOGL) umbrella, was granted a permit to operate as a transport network company in Arizona, according to Quartz. This development puts Waymo on track to become the first company in the United States to launch a commercial taxi service using fully self-driving vehicles.

Waymo is acquiring thousands of Pacifica minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU) and equipping them with autonomous driving technology to use for its ride-hailing service.

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Permit clears way for Waymo to charge riders

For months, Waymo has been running a pilot ride-hailing service in Arizona’s capital, Phoenix. The pilot saw people take free rides in Waymo’s self-driving minivans. The permit from Arizona’s transportation department paves the way for Waymo to offer its ride-hailing service on a commercial basis, meaning that the company can now collect payment from riders.

Challenging Uber’s dominance

Waymo’s taxi service is expected to launch anytime this year in Phoenix, a development that would see the company stir up more competition for Uber and Lyft in the US ride-hailing market. According to Second Measure, Uber commands more than 70% of the US ride-hailing market, so Uber has much to lose if Waymo’s ride-hailing service turns out to be a success.

Besides Waymo, Ford Motor Company (F), Toyota Motor (TM), and General Motors (GM) have also shown interest in entering the ride-hailing market with driverless vehicles. GM is a large investor in Uber rival Lyft.


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