In Depth

Waymo offers public rides in self-driving cars

People in Phoenix get chance to try out autonomous vehicles to take them 'from work, to school, to the movies and more'

Self-driving car firm Waymo, a sub-brand of Google's parent company Alphabet, has opened applications for the public to trial its autonomous vehicles. 

People in the city of Phoenix can apply to participate in the "Early Rider" programme, with successful applicants being able to go "from work, to school, to the movies and more" without having to drive, says the company. 

Applicants will need to provide feedback on their experience "to help shape the future of how our self-driving cars will work."

While the vehicles - a Lexus RX450h and a Chrysler Pacific Hybrid - can drive themselves, a test driver will always be in the car to ensure the occupants aren't put in danger if the onboard systems fail, reports TechRadar.

Consequently, says the Guardian, Waymo's programme "is more akin to a subsidised taxi service than a truly open self-driving car release".

However, the newspaper adds that having a driver present also means "households that apply do not need driving licences, or even the physical capability to take control of the car". 

The Verge says it is a "major milestone" for Alphabet, which has been operating self-driving cars "on public roads for years without allowing real people to experience the technology first-hand".

Waymo's competitors, such as ride-hailing app Uber, began trialling driverless cars with the public as early as last September. 

However, continues the site, Uber's efforts have been "fraught with missteps", with one of its cars "tipping over on its side."

Waymo will "continue growing the programme as the year rolls on", says TechRadar, although there's no word on whether the fleet of 500 vehicles will arrive on UK shores any time soon. 

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