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Waymo opens up self-driving test in Phoenix

Waymo family
Waymo’s call for early riders highlights Phoenix-area families who are already participating in the company’s autonomous-car trial. (Waymo via YouTube)

It’s been a good day on the streets and in the courts for Waymo, the driverless-car company that was spun out from Google as another Alphabet subsidiary last year.

First off, Waymo opened up its closed trial for autonomous driving in the Phoenix metropolitan area for public signup. This means Arizonans can apply to become “early riders” in the self-driving minivans and SUVs that Waymo is testing.

In a blog post, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said the rider pool will be expanded from a handful to hundreds over the course of the trial. “The goal of this program is to give participants access to our fleet every day, at any time, to go anywhere within an area that’s about twice the size of San Francisco,” he said.

The cars will be made available for free to the households of applicants selected for the trial, with rides provided in an area including Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe, Mesa and Gilbert. To accommodate the extra riders, Waymo’s fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans will be expanded from 100 to 600 vehicles, Krafcik said.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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