- Waymo will make its self-driving vehicles available to Lyft customers in the Phoenix area through a partnership announced by Waymo CEO John Krafcik.
- Waymo's autonomous vehicles (AVs) had previously only been available to subscribers of Waymo One, the company’s self-driving taxi service. Now, 10 such cars will be available to hail through the Lyft app.
- Krafcik said the partnership "will allow us to introduce the Waymo Driver to Lyft users, enabling them to take what for many will be their first ride in a self-driving vehicle."
The partnership is a major step forward for Waymo One, which has strictly limited ridership in the opening months of the service. Test riders in late 2018 had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to be in the car, and when the service fully launched in December, the customer base was just "hundreds" of people. Krafcik said that about 1,000 riders have been served since then.
Opening a handful of cars up to Lyft riders signals Waymo’s confidence in their technology. The minivans — which can carry three adults and one child — currently drive in a 100-square-mile are around metro Phoenix, with a safety driver on board to take over in an emergency (the cars also have a one-touch connection to a service agent for other questions).
The announcement comes just two years after Lyft and Waymo first said they would work together on autonomous vehicles, although they did not specify how they would partner. Representatives from both companies declined to provide details about how fares would be split between the two companies, or how demand would be managed for the limited fleet. Waymo has also openly talked about partnering with companies like Walmart, Avis and AutoNation to use self-driving cars to bring customers to their stores.
The rapid expansion of Waymo One signals how far the Alphabet-backed company has come. In addition to its Phoenix service, Waymo logged 1.2 million test miles in California last year and will expand its footprint in Arizona with a new technical center in Mesa. Lyft, meanwhile, hired John Maddox, the former CEO of AV research institution the American Center for Mobility (ACM), and has used partnerships and acquisitions to build up its own AV research unit. Through a partnership with Aptiv, the company has also run its own AV trials in Las Vegas. The latest partnership will be one of the highest-profile tests of AVs for both companies, and will be a major test to see how members of the public respond to the technology.