Autonomous (self-driving) cars just might be here to stay, and Alphabet (parent company of Google) has made a huge leap into the everyday lives of middle America with a big announcement. Waymo has partnered with five large US companies to test how autonomous vehicles could become part of the lives of millions of people. AutoNation, Avis, DDR Corp, Element Hotels, and Wal-Mart are now offering Waymo’s services to their clients.
In the small pilot program, the five companies will use Waymo’s autonomous vehicles in the Phoenix, Arizona, region. For example, AutoNation will offer an autonomous vehicle in place of a loaner car to its customers while their vehicle is being serviced. Avis will pick up and drop off rental car customers. DDR will take shoppers to a local mall. Element Hotel will offer rides around the city to guests .
Just push the button, and sit back. (Source: Waymo.com)
Of course, the big name here is Wal-Mart. During this pilot program, customers can place their grocery order online and, while the order is being prepared, Waymo will transport the customer to and from Wal-Mart to pick up their groceries. The Wal-Mart e-commerce department says the purpose of the program is “to learn and also give shoppers a unique experience with amazing technology.” The company plans to roll out grocery delivery to 800 stores by the end of 2018, so this pilot program will be a big test to determine the potential success of grocery delivery across the country.
Roughly 400 people in the Phoenix area will test the waters. There still seems to be some reservations from a large part of the population when it comes to giving up control of their vehicles and trusting a computer. In reality, the crash rates of autonomous vehicles are much lower than when humans are behind the wheel. We get the feeling that once this becomes more commonplace, fears will subside, and people will begin to enjoy the time away from the wheel!