Waymo is expanding its autonomous car project. On Wednesday, the firm that started life as Google’s self-driving car project announced an expansion to its Phoenix, Arizona test program. Major retailer Walmart will offer a pilot program that enables shoppers to order online and collect their groceries in a self-driving car.
The move comes just days after Waymo’s parent company Alphabet suggested in an earnings call that the firm will explore ventures like “logistics and deliveries,” “licensing the technology for personal use vehicles” and “working with cities to help strengthen public transportation.” The Walmart partnership, launching this week, will give participants discounts on groceries that are ordered through the website, before Waymo picks up the customer and takes them to the store to collect their ready-prepared bags. It’s launching alongside a similar program with DDR that will ferry people to and from the Ahwatukee Foothills Towne Center in Chandler.
The announcement paints a clearer picture of Waymo’s future plans. The company has operated a limited ride-hailing service in Phoenix since April 2017, which it plans to fully roll out by the end of this year. Last week, the firm announced it’s driven eight million autonomous miles in 25 U.S. cities, one million of which occurred in the past month, with cars now driving 25,000 miles per day.
Beyond the Walmart and DDR partnerships, Waymo is also promoting its vehicles to tourists and travelers. The firm is working with Chandler’s Element Hotel to provide access for selected guests, while it’s expanding its partnerships with Avis and AutoNation. Avis customers can book a Waymo to pick up and drop off rental cars, starting with two Chandler locations, while AutoNation will offer a Waymo car for customers to get around while their personal car is undergoing repairs.
Although the current partnerships are running as part of the Phoenix test program, Waymo stated in its press release that “these businesses are national and what we learn from these programs will give us a network of partners when we launch in new cities down the road.”
In just four years Waymo has moved from demonstrating curious prototype vehicles to offering public rides with clear use cases. While it’s unclear when Waymo will reach more cities, the former Google team has made staggering progress.