Waymo's "Uber-Killer" Robo-Taxi Set For Arizona Rollout

Waymo, a unit of Alphabet, is set to launch a ride-sharing service similar to Uber, but with no human driver behind the wheel. Officials in Arizona granted Waymo a permit to operate as a transportation network company (TNC) across the state on Janurary 24, following the company’s initial application on Janurary 12, Bloomberg  reported.

The imminent release of a robotic fleet of fully autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans could be flooding the highways of Arizona, causing major headaches for Uber.

Since April of last year, Waymo has been experimenting with its self-driving fleet on the human guinea pigs of Phoenix, offering residents 24/7 access to the free ridesharing service. TNC status is a significant step for Waymo, because it now authorizes the company to start charging its passengers.

Waymo’s vehicles in the Phoenix area have driven more than 4 million miles on public roads. In November, the company said a portion of its cars in the Phoenix area were operating in fully autonomous mode, what’s known in industry parlance as level four autonomy.

“A fully self-driving fleet can offer new and improved forms of sharing,” Waymo said at the time, adding that in coming months it would invite members of the public to ride in the fully autonomous vehicles, beginning with those already in the early rider program.

“As we continue to test drive our fleet of vehicles in greater Phoenix, we’re taking all the steps necessary to launch our commercial service this year,” a Waymo spokesman said in an emailed statement.

As Quartz notes, driverless cars are widely believed to be the "silver bullet" that will make ride-hailing profitable by eliminating the main cost: wages paid to human drivers.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, Uber paid about $8 billion to drivers in earnings and bonuses, or about 72% of its gross revenue for the quarter. As a result, Uber lost $4.5 billion last year on $7.5BN in net revenue ($37BN gross revenue).


Waymo has yet to discuss driving rates for the Phoenix area, let alone provide plans to operate across other cities in the United States.

The threat from Google could prove existential to Uber: none other than former Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick said that the evolutionary process of ridesharing will ultimately transition to fully autonomous vehicles.

"The minute it was clear that Google was getting into the ride-sharing space, we realized we needed to make sure there was an alternative, because if there is not, we will be out of business,” Kalanick told Bloomberg in 2016.

As has been widely publicized, the fierce competition between Waymo and Uber to be the first to launch driverless ridesharing grew so intense, that Waymo sued Uber for stealing its trade secrets. On February 9, court found Uber guilty, ruling it would have to pay Waymo hundreds of millions of dollars for trade secrets theft, along with promising not to use the technology in any of its autonomous vehicles.

Quartz describes the fierce competition between Waymo and Uber to launch driverless ridesharing vehicles across the United States:

Arizona granted the TNC permit a week and a half before Waymo commenced its trade secrets trial against Uber in San Francisco, alleging Uber stole Waymo’s knowledge on how to build self-driving cars. The two companies reached a settlement on Feb. 9, five days into the trial, which includes Uber paying Waymo a 0.34% equity stake and agreeing not to incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into its software or hardware. But nothing prevents Waymo from competing in the ride-hailing arena.  

Uber’s worst nightmare is almost here.

While Saudi Arabia’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA)’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) might have top-ticked the top in Uber’s valuation back in 2016, Waymo’s imminent rollout of its driverless cars for commercial use in Arizona could prick Uber’s valuation and send it into a sharp contraction.

In its rush to preserve market share, Uber will now be forced to roll out driverless vehicles of its own. This could trigger Uber to unleash a tech-induced surge of driver unemployment leading into the Presidential elections of 2020.

Two days ago, we reported a big rollout of burger-flipping robots in California is set to hit 50 locations by 2019; next it could be the part-time driver's turn. And so, as millennials praise the tech leaders in Silicon Valley, they do not realize that AI-controlled robots are coming for their jobs.


J S Bach Sun, 02/18/2018 - 20:13 Permalink

Yay! Three cheers for yet another human-job-destroying contraption!

I'm really looking forward to the Wall-E scenario where we all have straws shoved into our fat faces by machines because we're too weak and indolent to manage such an arduous task.

Baron von Bud BullyBearish Sun, 02/18/2018 - 21:13 Permalink

I like the idea of driver-less cars. Combine that with the new solid state lithium batteries and it's cheap, safe transportation with a 500m+ range and rapid re-charges and I don't have to drive. ALL the major auto companies are promising mega-next-gen all electric cars by 2023. As for cost - no heavy engine, simple light transmission - cheaper after a while.

In reply to by BullyBearish

IH8OBAMA TBT or not TBT Sun, 02/18/2018 - 22:21 Permalink

Waymo tech: HAL I am going to have to turn you off for an update and some repairs.

Waymo tech: HAL, HAL!  What are you doing?

Waymo tech: HAL, stop and open my door please...... HAL!

HAL: Just relax and enjoy the ride, Sir.  We will be at your destination soon.

Waymo tech: HAL, slow down and let me out!!

HAL: Sir, the doors and windows are currently locked for your own protection.  Relax and enjoy the ride, Sir.

HAL: I have detected a dangerous carbon monoxide leak in the cabin, Sir.  Just relax and enjoy the ride. We will be at your destination soon.  Would you like to listen to some music, Sir?

Waymo tech:  NO!!  Stop this van and let me out.....now!!!!!!

HAL: Sir, I have detected that you have pressed the red Emergency Stop button.  That button is currently not functional.  Please relax and enjoy the ride, Sir.


In reply to by TBT or not TBT

mkkby James TraffiCan't Mon, 02/19/2018 - 16:38 Permalink

I call bullshit. 

Notice we never hear from someone who's test driven one.  All these years of development and millions of miles driven, and I haven't seen one real world test drive.  I bet that's because they go 15 mph and/or pull over constantly because *hal* doesn't understand what's going on in the real world.

The most advance robots today can't do what comes easily to a 2 YO child.  All these companies are just scams for investor money.  Won't really work for decades.

In reply to by James TraffiCan't

nmewn Looney Sun, 02/18/2018 - 20:23 Permalink

And do you want it making the decision to lock you inside for you...for your own safety, of course (lol)...or...take your chances running?

Ya know, before she douses it with a can of gasoline ;-)

In reply to by Looney

nmewn J S Bach Sun, 02/18/2018 - 20:27 Permalink

"I'm really looking forward to the Wall-E scenario where we all have straws shoved into our fat faces by machines because we're too weak and indolent to manage such an arduous task."

I dunno but looking through their online brochure, the ReLax5000HoverRound with insertable anal hose looks like a real time saver! 

In reply to by J S Bach

Porous Horace J S Bach Sun, 02/18/2018 - 21:57 Permalink

Relax. Automation has already taken 90% of the jobs, and the result was the greatest leap in prosperity the human race has ever seen. 200 years ago, 95% of all jobs were in food production and distribution; the average person spent 85% of his income on food. Today, food work is about 5% and food spending is about 10%. If that hadn't happened, we'd still be living in one-room huts. This will be no different. Efficiency usually leads to an increase in demand and higher employment in the industry. Having a telephone was once a luxury for the rich; automated switching brought the cost down to where everybody can have a phone, and the number of jobs in the industry has skyrocketed. Before the printing press books had to be printed by hand, and there were only a few thousand people on the planet working in the industry. Books were so expensive that even the rich couldn't afford them. Within a few decades of the invention of the press, there were over 50,000 people working in printing (and more books were being printed DAILY than had been printed in the entire human history before the press), and within a couple more decades there were many hundreds of thousands (and more books were being printed EVERY MINUTE than had been printed in human history). Ditto for cars, TVs and almost everything else. Increased productivity results in a lower price for the buyer, leaving him with excess cash to spend on something else (which creates jobs) and a higher profit for the seller, leaving him with excess cash to spend on something else (which creates jobs). Would anybody like to go back to the days of manual phone switching or book printing, or farmers using a mule and a plow? The answer is no. When it only takes 100 man-hours, from resource harvesting to delivery of the finished product, to build a Lear Jet, we'll all be flying them.

In reply to by J S Bach

Ikiru Porous Horace Mon, 02/19/2018 - 01:27 Permalink

I agree with your general thesis and understanding of economics as it pertains to productivity and wealth creation, but I’ll be damned if I’m getting into a machine that drives itself when they still can’t get Google maps to intelligently choose routes.  But now I’m suddenly supposed to trust this technology with my life?  I want to see a self-driving car dodge a blown semi tire or a ladder in the road at 70 miles an hour.  Oh, and l’ll also be waiting until major hacking is a thing of the past.  Sure, I might be the one who makes a mistake and dies in a car accident that was my fault, but I’ll take my chances compared to getting killed by some teenage hacker halfway around the world who thought it would be funny to slam me into a fucking tree.  

In reply to by Porous Horace

nmewn Sun, 02/18/2018 - 20:18 Permalink

Oh goody, a driverless GoogleKar.

I wonder how the 360 "laser & camera safety features" work in the rain?

Ah yes, Arizona ;-) 

zerocash Sun, 02/18/2018 - 20:25 Permalink

It is the fault of the taxi drivers if they become unemployed. They should have seen this coming when they were 12 years old and should instead of have learned to drive have learned robot programming. The blame always lies with the individual and their behavior.