Chandler, Ariz.— On the chilly October day the New York City subway opened in 1904, the marvel of engineering and grit was greeted with horns, steam sirens and stations overrun by thousands of revelers. “Fast Trains in Tubes,” blared one headline.
On Wednesday, 114 years later in sun-swept Arizona, the launch of the 21st-century equivalent came in a blog post and an email invitation.
Google offshoot Waymo announced it is launching the nation’s first commercial self-driving taxi service in this and other Phoenix suburbs. The 24/7 service, dubbed Waymo One, will let customers summon self-driving minivans by a smartphone app, a la Uber or Lyft.
On Tuesday, Lyft offered a glimpse of its brand-new self-driving car. It’s a Ford Fusion hybrid sedan with technology designed and built by the ride-hailing company’s in-house team of autonomous vehicle engineers. Lyft also announced the acquisition of Blue Vision Labs, a London-based augmented reality startup that uses computer vision to process street-level imagery.
The nation’s capital early next year joins a roster of cities across the country where self-driving cars are being tested amid the real-world conditions of everyday commuter traffic.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday that Ford Motor Co. will deploy a fleet of up to 10 self-driving, or semiautonomous, vehicles in the city in February as part of the automaker’s nationwide push to test driverless cars. In the city’s pilot program, the high-tech autos will aim to carry passengers and make deliveries across the city by 2021, officials said.
Supporters of self-driving cars say the artificial intelligence that controls them will remove human errors that cause accidents.
The city wants to boost for-hire vehicle occupancy rates, while also improving low-income residents’ access to transportation and reducing traffic congestion.
WASHINGTON — Only 40 percent of the taxis and ride-hailing vehicles in the District of Columbia are occupied at any given time, ever since services like Uber and Lyft gained popularity, according to City Hall.
Car subscriptions and Google’s self-driving taxi service—under development in Mountain View, California—are likely to transform the transportation ecosystem even further in coming years. So, district officials say they want to start now to help fill the seats of the vehicles on the road, while also helping provide better transportation options for low-income residents.