The rollout of Waymo One, Waymo's commercial self-drive taxi service, on Wednesday is far behind the company's own expectations.
In late September, a Waymo spokeswoman emailed Ars, saying the Phoenix service was completely driverless and open to the public ̵
We now know that Waymo One will not be completely driverless; there will be a driver in the driver's seat. And Waymo One is accessible to the public only in the narrowest and most technical sense: initially, it will only be available to early drivers – the same people who have been participating in Waymo's testing program for months.
This seems to be the latest This shows that Waymo's technology is developing more slowly than many expected – including Waymo's own leadership a year ago. People who have watched Waymos vehicles on public roads in recent months report that the cars are still struggling with unprotected left turns, mergers, and other difficult situations.
Waymo is widely regarded as an industry leader. The company began using self-drive technology in 2009, long before most other technology and automotive companies took it seriously. So, if Waymo is not ready to start a completely driverless service after more than 18 months of intense public testing, it should make us skeptical of claims by other companies that are ready to introduce fully self-driving technology in the foreseeable future.
Waymo One is hardly a public service.
The launch of Waymo One feels less like launching a public commercial service than renaming its test program. Waymo promised to launch a commercial service before the end of the year and Waymo One is technically qualified. But the service seems to be barely more accessible to the public than the early driver program Waymo had last week.
In a phone conversation on Thursday, a Waymo spokeswoman declined how many customers signed up for Waymo One on the first day or first day. How many trips did they make? If a lot of people sign up, you'd expect to post some photos or videos on social media, but 48 hours after the official launch, I could not find any signs of people using Waymo One – or even I have other people.
I'm sure Waymo is telling the truth when he says he invited "hundreds" of early riders to switch to Waymo One, and I'm assuming that at least a handful of people have signed up. Normally, however, this does not happen when a large public company puts an important new product on the market.