Waymo, Google's self-driving car division, has started an early rider program for its autonomous vehicle fleet, and has significantly increased its order for autonomous Chrysler Pacific plug-in hybrid people movers.
The early rider program is currently only open to residents living in and around Phoenix, Arizona.
Waymo says it will be "accepting hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and transportation needs" during the course of this trial. The company is primarily seeking people who want "access to our fleet every day, at any time, to go anywhere within an area that’s about twice the size of San Francisco", not people who want an occasional ride or two.
Naturally riders will need to provide feedback to the company about their experience. Successful applicants and their families will gain free access to the company's fleet of Lexus RX450h SUVs and Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid people movers.
Up until this point, Waymo has spent the bulk of its effort building out its self-driving vehicle technology and software, and accumulating millions of kilometres on public roads in order to refine, test and teach its systems.
Now, according to Google, the company is ready to begin collecting real-world data with people in day-to-day situations. With this trial, Waymo wants to discover "things like where people want to go in a self-driving car, how they communicate with our vehicles, and what information and controls they want to see inside".
The results from this early rider program will help shape how Waymo will eventually bring its autonomous vehicle technology to market, whether it be via private cars, public transport, ride-hailing apps or logistics.
In addition to this, Waymo has announced that it will be ordering a further 500 self-driving Chrysler Pacific plug-in hybrids. This is in addition to its initial order of 100 people movers.